Morris E. Chafetz, a contrarian Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who became a leading expert on alcohol abuse and who sought to teach Americans how to drink responsibly without shaming them into not drinking at all, died Oct. 14 at his home in Washington.

His wife of 65 years, the former Marion Donovan, died the day before at the Sunrise at Fox Hill assisted living facility in Bethesda, Md., after a respiratory attack. He was 87; she was 86.

Their son Adam Chafetz, as well as a spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the cause and manner of Morris Chafetz's death have not yet been determined. Their sons Marc and Gary said he telephoned hours after his wife's death to say he planned to commit suicide.

In 1971, Morris Chafetz became the first director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, now a division of the National Institutes of Health. Ronald Reagan later nominated him to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving.

During his five-decade career, Chafetz used his Harvard bona fides and the bully pulpit of his appointments to promote one basic concept: that the United States erred, and in fact aggravated the problem of alcoholism, by treating liquor as a forbidden fruit.

"My feelings about alcohol are similar to those of Winston Churchill, who once said, 'I have taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from me,' " Chafetz wrote in The New York Times in 1984. "I contend that society has taken more good from alcohol than alcohol has taken from society."

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