Sudden death of hospital surgeon dad-of-two

Staff at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital lined a road two metres apart to pay a touching tribute to a “dedicated” colleague and father-of-two who died suddenly.

Video footage shows the socially distanced staff members paying their respects to paediatric ophthalmologist Dave Laws, who was described as a “wonderful colleague and a caring person”.

He died on Tuesday morning, which came as a shock to those who knew him. His death was not related to coronavirus.

Singleton Hospital’s eye department, where Mr Laws worked, has paid tribute to him.

In a statement, his colleagues said: “It is with great sadness that we at Singleton Hospital eye department announce the tragic, sudden and unexpected death of Mr David Laws.

“David, or ‘Dave’ as he was known here, was a very well-liked paediatric ophthalmologist and until recently the clinical lead of our department. His passing on Tuesday morning last week came as a great shock to all our members of staff and has left a hole in our department, and lives, that will never be filled.

“Dave qualified in medicine at the University of Wales in 1984, and following ophthalmology training in Birmingham, Brisbane and Liverpool took up his post as the first dedicated paediatric ophthalmologist in Swansea in 1995.

“The majority of the current consultant staff trained under Mr Laws and his dedication to our department and to medical training is well known. He was an undergraduate clinical tutor for six years and clinical lead until 2019. For a long time, the only paediatric ophthalmologist in Swansea, there are countless children and adults who owe their sight to Mr Laws’ surgical skill.

“Shortly before his death he was elected Llywydd (presiding officer) of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in Wales. His exceptional surgical ability and holistic care is respected not just in Wales but worldwide.”

David Laws, a respected paediatric ophthalmologist who has sadly died
(Image: Swansea Bay University Health Board)

According to his colleagues, Mr Laws was well travelled and visited many places as part of his work with Orbis, the flying eye hospital, including cycling the length of Vietnam and circumnavigating the island of Mull by kayak.

“There was a competition a few years ago at Singleton rewarding the staff member coming to work by the most unusual means with a year’s free bus pass.

“This Dave easily won by canoeing to work from his house in Oxwich. He never did use the bus pass.

“A kind and generous man, the death of Mr Laws has hit the Welsh Ophthalmic community badly. So many of us owe him our careers and our happiness and his optimism and unfailing cheerfulness was well known. He leaves behind his wife Kath, a physiotherapist at Singleton, his two daughters, Elinor and Carys, a devastated ophthalmic family and his grateful patients.”

Mr Mike Austin, a colleague, said of him said: “Dave joked we were ‘ophthalmology twins’ as we were appointed to Singleton on the same day and took part time retirement at the same time too. It’s so sad that he only enjoyed his for a few months. My friend was an outstanding clinician and brilliant surgeon, and what he had more than anyone I have met was the ability to see ‘Big Picture’ Service, planning from the perspective of the individual patient. But what I will miss most is his mischievous humor.”

Mr Luke Anderson, current clinical lead said: “Dave was an exceptional doctor, a great friend, a wonderful colleague and a caring person. The department he created was an exciting forward-looking happy one. We will miss his kind nature and boundless enthusiasm”.

Mr Gwyn Williams, his successor as undergraduate tutor, said: “Dave Laws was a mentor, a colleague and a friend. He taught me not only cataract surgery but what it was to be a well-rounded ophthalmic physician. I shall miss him hugely; his wise words, his jokes and his noble old-fashioned approach to medicine.”

Due to Covid restrictions there will be a limited attendance at his funeral, though a memorial service will be planned when the pandemic is over. Any cards should be sent to the eye department at Singleton Hospital.

WalesOnline – Swansea