Alexander Gatherer

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 26 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5511
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Public health doctor who later focused on global prison health

Alex Gatherer’s retirement in 1994 as director of public health and district medical officer in Oxford didn’t last long. The next year, when he turned 66, he was recruited by the World Health Organization to join its new prisons and health programme.

His job title was temporary adviser, as WHO can offer permanent positions only to people younger than 62. Gatherer quickly became a valuable member of the prison health team. Each year WHO offered him a fresh contract extension, and Gatherer, who loved the work, gladly accepted. Over the years he made important contributions through research and work for prison health reform in Europe and beyond.

Earlier this year, at the age of 84, he wrote an editorial on the health of prisoners that was published in the BMJ, stating: “Prison healthcare is not only a test of our civilisation but also a real test of our medical professionalism.” He signed the piece: Alex Gatherer, temporary adviser to WHO Health in Prisons programme.1

Gatherer never retired from …

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