Paul Wilson Brand, the pioneering missionary surgeon who wrote a series of books connecting the Christian faith and medicine, died Tuesday after several weeks in a coma following a fall in his Seattle home.
Born to missionary parents in the mountains of southwestern India in 1914, Brand attended London University, where he met his wife, Margaret Berry. The two surgeons returned to Vellore, India, to teach at the Christian Medical College and Hospital.
While working as the school's first professor of orthopaedics and hand research, Brand pioneered surgical work with those suffering from Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection more commonly known as leprosy. He was the first surgeon to use reconstructive surgery to correct deformities caused by the disease in the hands and feet, and developed many other forms of prevention and healing from the disease.
Before Brand, it was widely believed that those suffering from Hansen's Disease lost their fingers and feet because of rotting flesh. Instead, Brand discovered, such deformities were due to the loss of ability to feel pain. With treatment and care, he showed, victims of the disease could go indefinitely without such deformities.
It was on this issue that Brand's work with Hansen's disease met with his theological reflections on what he viewed as "the most problematic aspect of creation: the existence of pain." Pain, Brand believed, was not antithetical to life, but a requisite for it. "God designed the human body so that it is able to survive because of pain," he later wrote.
After 18 years and more than 3,000 surgeries at the Christian Medical College, Brand in 1965 accepted a position at the U.S. Public Health Service's National Hansen's Disease Center in Carville, Louisiana, where ...