Leon Kaufman

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 02 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k960
  1. R Ginsburg

A lifelong love of reading, a hugely retentive memory, and a keen interest in research enabled Leon Kaufman to place the new academic department of anaesthesia at University College Hospital (UCH), which he had been invited to establish in 1968, on a firm academic footing. Throughout the 1970s, using some of his clinical sessions at St Mark’s Hospital in City Road, he published original papers on diverse topics, including anaesthesia for phaeochromocytoma, cardiac arrhythmias during dental procedures, muscle relaxants, the endocrine response to surgery, and postoperative pain relief. While still a registrar, he had published a paper on cholinesterase deficiency in childhood and later developed an interest in the perioperative problems associated with anaesthetising patients with muscular dystrophy. This work led to an MD from the University of Edinburgh in 1964 and established him as an authority on the topic.

Soon after arriving at UCH, he set up courses for trainee anaesthetists studying for both the primary and final fellowship of the Faculty of Anaesthetists at the Royal College of Surgeons (FFARCS, later to become FRCA), which he ran for 25 years. Extending his interest in training, he started to publish and established the Anaesthesia Review series in 1982, which ran to 16 near annual editions. The series became mandatory reading for both candidates and examiners for the fellowship alike. A regular feature of the series was a chapter entitled “Research Update,” for which he would collect papers he deemed of interest to anaesthetists and intensivists from a range of publications such as The BMJ, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine. When submission day approached, he would settle himself to read all the papers over 1-2 hours and without further reference dictate a distillation of the papers at a single sitting. He co-wrote textbooks, such as Medical Problems and the Anaesthetist (which was translated into six languages), Dental Anaesthesia, Medicine in the Practice of Anaesthesia, and Pharmacology in the Practice of Anaesthesia.

Leon Kaufman was born in Edinburgh in 1927 to parents of modest means and won a full scholarship to George Heriot’s School. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University. After qualifying he developed an interest in anaesthesia, which he reasoned would enable him to maintain contact with a range of medical disciplines

After an initial post at Leicester Royal Infirmary, he started national service in 1952 and served as a junior specialist in anaesthesia in Chester, the Canal Zone, and Tripoli. After leaving the Forces, he undertook the remainder of his anaesthesia training at UCH and the Hospital for Sick Children. He gained FFARCS in 1956 and was appointed consultant to Hampstead General and the Royal Free hospitals in 1962. He took on sessions at St Mark’s Hospital in 1965, which he retained for the remainder of his career. He was awarded the Pask medal in 1990 by the Association of Anaesthetists in recognition of his contribution to anaesthetic literature.

He examined for the London MB and for the primary FFARCS in pharmacology. He also examined for the final FFARCS for a period of 12 years, in medicine for the FDS, and in applied physiology and critical care for the FRCS (Edinburgh). He served on the academic board and medical school council of UCH medical school and on the council of the anaesthetic section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was an assessor on the Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths and a member of the panel of advisers to the Australian Medical Research Council.

His love of reading encompassed a range of secular topics, and he particularly enjoyed reading biographies. He was a devotee of opera and enjoyed the theatre. He explored biblical literature and researched pain relief, primitive anaesthesia, and childbirth in biblical and medieval times. He became president of the London Jewish Medical Society in 1975, the first time such an honour had been bestowed on an anaesthetist.

He leaves his wife and four children (a head teacher, a general practitioner (married to an anaesthetist), an accountant, and a dentist).

Emeritus consultant anaesthetist (b 1927; q 1949; MD, FRCA), died from complications of bronchopneumonia on 6 March 2017

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