He was uniquely able to understand the medical, emotional and social needs of this population as he was born in South Africa with severe haemophilia A, at a time when almost all boys born with bleeding disorders died before they reached maturity. (Two of his uncles died in childhood.) Apart from some happy years spent at a sympathetic prep school, The Ridge, he was educated by family and tutors, for no senior school would accept the risk that such a life-threatening condition posed.
Despite the loneliness of his adolescent years, he honed his exceptional intellectual gifts and by the age of 15 knew he wanted to be a doctor. He was accepted to read Medicine at the University of Witwatersrand and, despite periods of illness and pain, completed his medical training and extended his experience in various London hospitals in the early 1960s. But it was in Boston, Massachusetts that he found the opportunity to develop his interest in haemotology. The years from 1965 to 1975 were characterised by great intellectual endeavour in his chosen field, and he published many papers on cell culture and haemostasis.
However it was his personal experience of the pain and suffering associated with haemophilia that kept his focus on caring above all for his patients at the New England Medical Centre Hospitals and Harvard Medical School.
In the 1970s he moved to New York State to head the American Red Cross Blood Services, NE Region, in Albany, where he remained until he went to Geneva in 1985. There he worked with ceaseless energy to promote the establishment of safe and comprehensive blood transfusion services and treatment for people with coagulation disorders throughout the world. He and his colleagues published WHO guidelines on the organisation of safe blood transfusion service and promoted the principle of non-remuneration for blood collection and procedures to prevent the spread of AIDS, hepatitis and other viruses.
His own life was tragically affected by the wave of contaminated Factor VIII which devastated the haemophiliac population in the early 1980s, and he and his wife, Sue Jago, contracted HIV before tests to detect its presence in blood products were available. Jago died in 1993; two years later he married a childhood friend, Hilary Picardie, who cared for him during his final years, which were characterised by courage, serenity in the face of death, and a sense of humour. Now living in Wales, they were able to indulge his other great passions, for music and cricket, going to concerts and supporting Glamorgan County cricket team.
Anthony Britten, doctor: born Johannesburg 21 January 1935; married three times (one son, one daughter); died Cardiff 20 July 1996.Reuse content