BMA holds memorial service for doctors who lost their lives to Covid-19

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 16 March 2022
BMA in the news Illustration

The British Medical Association today held a memorial service for the doctors who lost their lives to Covid-19 during the pandemic.

At the service1 at the BMA’s headquarters in London, representatives from the BMA read a list of the names of doctors known to have died, before observing a minute’s silence. A choir and musical ensemble2 then performed ‘We Will Remember, We Can’t Forget’, a piece composed for the BMA in 2021.

A specially commissioned stone sculpture3 was also presented in the courtyard of the BMA’s headquarters, serving as a permanent memorial to all healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19.

Sculptor Richard Tannenbaum said the structure, which features a continuous loop of jointed sections, aims to “convey the sense of continuity of care that the NHS has provided; that because of the sacrificial service of the health workers it has continued to function ceaselessly throughout the pandemic; that though individual parts have been particularly hard-pressed, the integrity of the whole has been maintained and that we the public are inextricably linked with those NHS workers who lost their lives in caring for us”.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, paid tribute to the “courage and bravery” of healthcare staff working throughout the pandemic, and expressed “profound sorrow and heartfelt condolences” to the loved ones of those doctors who have died, some of whom were in attendance.

In his opening address4 Dr Nagpaul said:

“Through every resurging wave of this pandemic, a constant has been the heroism and selflessness of the medical workforce. As many millions of people sheltered in their homes to limit contact with others, we went to work to care for the sick and the vulnerable. As the virus shut down society, we served the nation. When people were asked to lockdown, they did their duty, and we did ours.

“It is a cruel tragedy that in saving the lives of tens of thousands of patients, so many doctors lost their own. They dedicated their lives to the pursuit of helping others. Their deeds will inspire generations long after this pandemic has passed.

“…While all these deaths have been such a huge loss to so many, we have heard the inspiring and heart-warming accounts of their lives as doctors, friends and family members. We’ve heard about their hobbies and talents beyond the world of medicine, about their lives as painters, or hill climbers, writers, or musicians. Today we mourn their loss as we celebrate their lives, their passions, and their stories. Each one a unique reminder of the reason so many of us became doctors; the shared respect we have for the sanctity of life. Our memorial today is dedicated to all of them who lived to make the lives of others better.”

Addressing the families present, BMA president Professor Neena Modi said:

“I, with the staff and members of the BMA want to reflect together, with you, on the loss of family, friends, and colleagues, mourn their loss and recognise the enormous contributions and sacrifices they and others made during the Covid-19 pandemic. I can share but never fully know the pain of those of you who have lost loved ones, but I can tell you that the entire medical community is proud of them, and wants you to know this.”

Pamela Foley, wife of Mr Amged El-Hawrani, an ear nose and throat surgeon from Staffordshire, who died in March 2020, said:

“I’m completely overwhelmed by some of the things that patients have said about Amged in letters, about how he has saved so many lives. To save a single life is a feat that will forever be respected.

“The requirement of Amged’s role led to saving lives on a consistent basis. It was easy to overlook the impact of his profession when changing lives existed to him a daily occurrence. After work, he would return home every evening for dinner and enquire about the needs and concerns of me and our son Ashraf without vocalising his achievements or own concerns.

“Amged lived his whole life treating everyone with kindness. He wanted to fix everything and everybody, whether it was physically or mentally. Praise and approval were meaningless to him, he was only gratified through witnessing the result of which his input had on the people he cared for, both professionally and as a husband, father, brother, son and friend.

“I feel that this memorial exists as a crucial opportunity for us to acknowledge the selfless nature of the health workers who lost their lives in the battle against Covid-19. These people died in their line of duty and should be forever admired as the heroes they are. I also feel that this memorial allows me and my family to reclaim part of the experience we lost when we were prohibited from a traditional funeral and memorial service.”

Dr Zehra Zaidi, daughter of Dr Syed Habib Haider Zaidi, a GP in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, who passed away in March 2020, said:

“My dad would always help people. He was selfless in so many ways.

“He would go out on Christmas Day in the middle of Christmas dinner, and deliver someone’s baby, or he would go and see a sick child.

“People would stop him in a supermarket, or whilst out locally, all the time. I can remember one older lady saying thank you for fixing her knee, for example. He loved helping people and people genuinely loved him, he was a community person.

“I was at work the day he died, I couldn’t come and see him because we didn’t know he was going to die that day although he was in intensive care.

“I couldn’t even travel to see him because the hospital weren’t letting anyone in, even if you were on ITUs or were ventilated. Those were the days where no one was allowed in.

“We never had a funeral for my dad, as funerals were restricted; we buried him and we went home. So it means so much for our family to be able to mark his passing today. It’s been the first time we have all been able to say goodbye properly together. So many people laid down their lives and it’s lovely that we get to remember those people in such a touching way, in a way that they deserved.

“My dad worked really hard, probably to his detriment, because he was working until he died. He never had a day off, he never retired [and] he never got to do any of the things he should have done. He gave so much to the NHS.

“He was a great family man, a great family doctor and the most generous and loving individual I have ever known, constantly putting his own needs beneath those of others, and we all miss him immensely.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Full programme, including the list of names. More details about the doctors are available on the BMJ’s tribute page.
  2. ‘We Will Remember, We Can’t Forget’ was composed by Paul K Joyce, commissioned by the BMA for its Annual Representative Meeting in 2021 in tribute to healthcare workers who lost their lives to COVID-19. It was performed today by Dr Karen Worth, Dr William Mukonoweshuro and Dr Nelofer Gafoor (narrators), Sue Blair (harp), Jonathan Hill (violin), Jonathan Ayling (cello), Mia Carpone and Priswaraa Vaenthen (soloists), Burntwood School Choir, Debbie Lammin (choir mistress) and Sue Dunn (Head of Performing Arts at Burntwood School).
  3. Sculptor Richard Tannenbaum, from Horningsea in Cambridgeshire, worked closely with Chichester Stoneworks stonemasons, who built and installed the sculpture at BMA House, with engineering input from Price and Myers structural engineers. It is made from Portland stone and stainless steel. A photograph of the sculpture is available here (Credit: Matt Saywell/BMA)
  4. Read Dr Nagpaul’s full address.
  5. Read Professor Modi’s full speech.