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Professor Ross Holland: The Special Committee Investigating Deaths Under Anaesthesia (SCIDUA) and his other contributions to anaesthesia

ANZCA, Melbourne and Sydney


As a young anaesthetic trainee in 1959 Ross Holland persuaded the Minister of Health in NSW, Australia, to establish SCIDUA, which by law required compulsory reporting for all deaths occurring during anaesthesia or up to 24 hours after cessation of the anaesthetic. The committee was multidisciplinary and, most importantly, had statutory privilege so that no discussions or findings were able to be subpoenaed for other legal investigations or case law. Holland was the foundation secretary of SCIDUA and later Chair. Apart from three years in the 1980s when there were political issues with legal privilege, the committee has met monthly and still meets. Holland was a major figure in antipodean anaesthesia, setting up in 1978 the clinical department at Westmead Hospital Sydney, then in 1987 becoming the foundation Professor to the Department of Anaesthesiology at the University of Hong Kong, and in 1990 foundation Professor and Chair, Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care at the University of Newcastle, NSW. Holland had strong historical interests and was responsible for founding the Society for the Preservation of Artefacts of Surgery and Medicine (SPASM) and its associated museum. He also served an important term as Dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons prior to that Faculty becoming independent as the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). Professor Holland received many accolades for these activities during his life, which are noted. It is fitting to recognise his seminal contributions to patient safety over more than 50 years.

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