Stephanie Saville obituary

Other lives: Anaesthetist who became a role model for female hospital doctors

My friend Stephanie Saville, who has died aged 91, was an anaesthetist who witnessed and participated in huge changes in medical practice throughout her career.

At a time when women were only beginning to forge careers in the competitive world of medicine, Stephanie was a role model for many female junior hospital doctors.

When she joined the staff at St Stephen’s hospital, London (now Chelsea and Westminster hospital) in 1960, there was only one ventilator between two operating theatres, and no recovery room. She helped to set up the intensive therapy unit at the hospital and was among the first to introduce epidurals as a regular practice in labour. She was also in the forefront of those who hastened the development of anaesthesia for pain relief, and she started a pain relief clinic at St Stephen’s. Born in Dublin to Cyril, a company secretary, and his wife, Evelyn (nee Maddocks), Stephanie was educated at Hillcourt school and Trinity College, where she studied medicine, graduating in 1949. Her first appointment as an anaesthetist was at the Royal City of Dublin hospital.

In 1954 Stephanie was one of the earliest fellows by examination of the faculty of anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (the fellowship examination having been introduced in 1953). Anaesthetics had only been recognised as a speciality in its own right since 1948, with the inception of the NHS.

She held positions in Bath, Bristol, Albany (New York), and again in Bath, before establishing herself in London. She worked for two years at St Bartholomew’s hospital before being appointed to the Westminster hospital as a senior registrar. In 1960 she became a consultant anaesthetist at St Stephen’s, a post she held until her retirement in 1987. By the time she left, St Stephen’s had four well-equipped operating theatres, a large recovery area and an immediately adjacent intensive care unit.

In retirement she enjoyed pottering about her charming cottage near Arundel in Sussex, winning prizes for her garden and welcoming her many friends with outstanding generosity.

Her marriage to Thomas Atterton ended in divorce in 1983; he died in 1992.

Barbara Wright

The GuardianTramp

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