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Stephen John Hadfield was born in Clapton, London, the son of a consultant anaesthetist. Following in his father's footsteps, he won a scholarship from Epsom College to Trinity College, Cambridge, and completed his medical studies at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, winning the Bentley prize. Early work in surgery, anaesthetics, and midwifery was followed by a memorable trip to the United States as assistant surgeon aboard the Aquitania.
In 1936 he married Jean MacDougall of MacDougall, younger daughter of the Clan Chief and moved to general practice, first in Wiltshire and then in Devon. He saw war service in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and was mentioned in dispatches. In 1948 he was appointed assistant secretary of the British Medical Association, where, in his writing and thinking, he provided a major contribution to the development of general practice. In 1953 he was commissioned by the secretary, Dr Charles Hill, to undertake a major field survey of UK practitioners. He showed that while most doctors performed adequately, often in very poor working conditions, there was significant scope for improvement both of conditions and of attitudes and standards. In 1958 he published a textbook on law and ethics for doctors. He was appointed under secretary of the BMA in 1960 and moved to Edinburgh to become Scottish secretary from 1964 until his retirement in 1974.
In 1977 he and his wife moved to Oban, seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDougall, where they entertained a constant stream of visitors in their home overlooking the Firth of Lorne, and Stephen threw himself into voluntary work as treasurer of ASH Scotland and the Oban Red Cross. A keen musician, Stephen took leading roles in the Oban Operatic Society productions of Gilbert and Sullivan until well into his 80s. He was a staunch Anglican who loved the liturgy and the music and regularly turned out for sung matins at St John's Episcopal Cathedral in Oban until a few months before his death. Stephen was an exact, modest, courteous, and gentle man. He is remembered as a big and generous personality and was loved greatly by the many who crossed his path. He is survived by his two daughters, Morag and Sheana.