Obituary - Dr Elisabeth Babington Lloyd-Jones

1922 to 2008

Dr Elisabeth Babington Lloyd-Jones (Betty) has died at the age of 86 years. She made signal contributions to the specialty of anaesthesia throughout her career, the major one being in the teaching of her own extremely high standards for thoracic and particularly cardiac anaesthesia, in which she was one of the earliest and most skilled practitioners. Betty read medicine at Edinburgh University, qualifying in 1945. Following house jobs in Windsor, she began her anaesthetic career in Bristol. She then moved to Oxford and obtained the DA and FFARCS.

After a period as Nuffield Research Assistant at Oxford she took up a registrar post at Hammersmith Hospital. This led to her involvement in the experimental work on the extra corporeal circulation with Denis Melrose and others at the Royal Veterinary College. Although the equipment was used clinically in 1953, it wasn’t until four years later that satisfactory whole body perfusion was possible. On 3 April 1957, a team led by Bill Cleland used the Melrose heart lung machine and elective cardiac arrest to close an atrial septal defect in a 42-year-old woman. The operation lasted six hours. The anaesthetists were Dr A J W Beard and Dr E Lloyd-Jones. There was no record of blood gas or acid-base measurements being available or of temperature being monitored; there was no intensive care unit and no postoperative ventilation; contrast this with today. Shortly afterwards, Betty was appointed consultant to Hammersmith Hospital and honorary lecturer to the Postgraduate Medical School.

Betty was held in the highest regard by all who worked with, or were taught by her. She had so much knowledge and many clinical skills to impart. She was an expert at passing double-lumen tubes. Pre-operative visits were never missed and a full history and physical examination were always undertaken. She instilled considerable confidence into the patients. Her attention to detail and meticulous observation of the patient’s condition and also surgical manoeuvres were without parallel. She invariably appeared in theatre wearing a single string of pearls (real) with her half-moon glasses perched on the end of her nose. Surgeons are occasionally known to get on their high horses and such events were usually ignored. If going on for too long, Betty would look over the screen and defuse the situation by saying: ‘for goodness sake don’t be so pompous’.

Regrettably, a serious car accident and subsequent ill health forced Betty’s resignation after 20 years of service. Her compassion and interest extended not only to her patients, but also to her colleagues. She was always approachable and loved to entertain and engage with their professional development. She had a great sense of fun as well as a quiet dignity. Most regrettable, too, is the fact that few anaesthetists outside the Hammersmith know, or knew of, this pioneer of anaesthesia for open-heart surgery, as she did not publish in her own right or lecture outside her own hospital. Undoubtedly, the best epitaph would be the often heard statement: ‘I wish I could be like Betty’.

Betty died on 27 May 2008. She is survived by her husband, the obstetrician and gynaecologist, Rees Lloyd-Jones, and their daughter Emma.

Jean Lumley
Maldwyn Morgan