Lives of the fellows

John David Jayne Havard

b.5 May 1924 d.23 May 2010
BA Cantab(1946) MB BChir(1950) LLB(1954) MD(1964) LLM(1976) FRCP(1994)

A lawyer as well as a physician, John Havard, or ‘Claude’, was a former secretary (chief executive) of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the principal architect of Britain’s seat belt and drink driving legislation. His Welsh father, Arthur William, was a GP in Lowestoft and his mother was Ursula Jayne Vernon née Humphrey. Claude was the first in his family not to speak Welsh and the fourth generation to qualify in medicine. Educated at Malvern College, he studied medicine at Jesus College, Cambridge and the Middlesex Hospital.

Qualifying in 1950, he did house jobs at the Middlesex, where he helped set up a sports injury clinic after he had pulled his own hamstring. He was called up for National Service in 1952 and joined the RAF as an acting squadron leader working on aircrew selection. As the job gave him plenty of spare time, he did a correspondence course in law and sat the Cambridge law finals, eventually being called to the bar having eaten the required numbers of dinners at one of the inns of court. On demobilisation he returned to Lowestoft to work as a GP and write his MD thesis. This was later published as The detection of secret homicide (London; Macmillan 1960) and remains a standard reference work on the topic.

He stayed in Lowestoft from 1952 to 1958 and then, feeling that a change of direction was called for, he joined the BMA as an assistant secretary. Eventually, in 1980, he was promoted to secretary and he set about a period of modernisation and reform. On his appointment, Michael Wood wrote in World medicine ‘Fate may have smiled on the BMA and delivered the right man at the right time’. He signed up their first personnel officer and public relations officer and set about improving staff morale by abolishing unnecessary paperwork and committee meetings (which he considered a waste of time).

In the early 1960s the need for legislation on the effects of alcohol and drugs on road safety was becoming a pressing issue in the UK and Havard played an important role in collating and documenting the evidence that was available. With Sir Edward Wayne he worked on the various committees which led to the 1967 United Kingdom Road Safety Act. Of the many publications he worked on at this time, one of the most significant was the one he co-authored with Leonard Goldberg of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden which was published as Research into the effects of alcohol and drugs on driver behaviour (Paris, OECD, 1968). This document was used by several European countries in the course of their legislation on the topic and he served as secretary of the International Committee on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety from 1962 to 1971, receiving their Widmark Award in 1989.

During his time at the BMA he raised the public image of the organisation, campaigning against boxing (because of the resulting brain damage), for compulsory seatbelts and methods to minimise the high numbers, in those days, of road deaths in children. He was also a member of the Whitley council on NHS salaries and of the General Medical Council.

He retired from the BMA in 1989 and again turned his attention to reviving a somewhat moribund institution, the Commonwealth Medical Association, which under his leadership developed an important role in assisting the medical associations of various developing countries and contributed to advances in safe childbirth, AIDS prevention and medical ethics as a consulting body to the United Nations.

While he was at Cambridge, he became president of the athletics club in 1946 and, the following year, held the London University 100 yards record. A possible Olympic runner, he was selected to run for England against the rest of the British Isles. He was a member of the combined Oxford and Cambridge athletics club, the Achilles Club, and continued his interest by refereeing university races; apparently he once disqualified the politician Jeffrey Archer for starting before the pistol went off.

Music was another passion and he sang with the Bach choir (including participating in the chorus at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana) and the Collegiate Singers who provide locum support to various cathedrals. A lover of the countryside, he also took a great interest in medieval history.

His first wife was Margaret Collis and they had a daughter and two sons. They divorced in 1982 and the same year he married Audrey Anne née Boutwood, who was a consultant gynaecologist. He had another son with Diana Northcott. Anne predeceased him in 2009 and he moved from London to be near his daughter, but died from the prostate cancer he had suffered from for a long time after only 11 days in his new home. He was survived by his daughter Amanda (‘Mandy’) who was a radiologist, his sons Jeremy and Richard, and grandchildren Edward and Lucy.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2010 340 3218; Zoominfo - both accessed 2 July 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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