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In memoriam
June 06, 2021

Dr. Murray William Enkin


As a young medical student, Murray fell in love with birthing mothers. He went on to transform maternity care in Canada and influence care and epidemiology worldwide.

Murray was born in Toronto, and died in Victoria, peacefully, with his family. He met Eleanor Wolfe at the Young Friends of Music in Toronto and they quickly knew they belonged together. After they married in 1947, they lived in Vancouver, Regina, Shaunavon and New York.

In 1955, their family moved to Hamilton, Ont., where Murray eventually became chief of obstetrics at St. Joseph’s Hospital. When McMaster University opened its innovative medical school, Murray joined the faculty. There he began his shift to the academic study of childbirth in support of family-centred maternity care. “Evidence is the best rhetoric,” was one of Murray’s aphorisms. He was an early adopter of then controversial practises such as childbirth education, delivery in the labour room, fathers present at births and rooming-in. Murray became involved in international movements for childbirth education and was known as an ”honourary midwife” by the midwives he supported in the recognition of their profession in Canada.

Although in Hamilton and in Oxford, England, he was a pioneer of evidence-based medicine, Murray’s endless iconoclasm led him to question the dominance of statistical evidence over personal narratives. He became increasingly interested in death and dying and coined the word tokothanatology, the study of the similarities between birth and death.

Murray’s children remember a series of deeply engaging hobbies. He had a home darkroom, kept tropical fish and studied classical guitar. He built a huge train set, many lovely and practical pieces of furniture and a harpsichord. Murray and Eleanor loved to hike, and they spent winter months meticulously planning long summer canoe trips.

Murray and Eleanor retired to Victoria, BC. In 2012, Murray’s achievements were recognized with the Order of Canada. Eleanor died in 2019. Murray continued to write, question, argue and appreciate brilliantly until his last days. On May 29, 2021, he enthusiastically celebrated his 97th birthday with family and his dear companion, Brigitte Rathje-Papadakis.

Murray’s favourite saying was by George Santayana: “There is no cure for birth or death save to enjoy the interval.”

Survived by his brother, Larry Enkin; children, Susan Boron (Doug Boron d. 2018), Nomi Kaston (Jack Kaston) Jane Enkin (Justin Jaron Lewis) and Randy Enkin (Eva Rebecca Bild); his grandchildren, Adam and Yoni Kaston, Daniel, Simon and Hannah Bild-Enkin, and Shlomo Jack and Sunny Enkin Lewis; and great-granddaughter, Ayana Kaston Hall. Predeceased by his parents, Max Enkin and Pearl Enkin and his beloved wife, Eleanor Enkin. In Murray's memory, a donation may be made to a charity of your choice.