In Memoriam—Dr. Roger Woodruff

2021; Volume 22, No 8, August

IAHPC President Lukas Radbruch and Executive-Director Liliana De Lima have dedicated the space usually reserved for their monthly message to this tribute to Dr. Roger Woodruff.

Roger Woodruff, MBBS, FRACP, FAChPM

By Dr. Lukas Radbruch, IAHPC President, and
Liliana De Lima, IAHPC Executive-Director

Roger Woodruff, one of the three founders of the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care, passed away a few weeks ago after suffering a stroke. A lifelong board member and a leader in the development of palliative care, Roger was very special to the IAHPC. His loss deeply affects us and we have dedicated this special section to him and his gifts to us.

This tribute includes a brief biography and contributions from cofounders as well as former and current members of the IAHPC Board of Directors.

A brief biography

Roger graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne. As a post-graduate he specialized in clinical hematology and medical oncology and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP). He was awarded a Clinical Research Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia that enabled him to continue his studies for two years at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Department of Medical Oncology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.

After returning to Australia, he became increasingly interested and involved in the field of palliative care, and helped establish and develop the Austin Hospital Palliative Care Service as well as the regional community-based Mid-Eastern Palliative Care Service in suburban Melbourne. He served as Director of Palliative Care at Austin Health, a major teaching hospital of the University of Melbourne, from 1996 to 2007. Since retiring from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne, he continued to work part time as a consultant physician in private practice in the fields of medical oncology, clinical hematology, and palliative medicine.

As a member of the national executive of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia, Roger convened the first interdisciplinary meeting on palliative care to be held in Australia—“Palliative Care for the 1990s”held in Canberra in 1989, which was very well attended. He was a member of the committee that established the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, and was the founding chairman of the Palliative Care Group of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia. He became a Fellow of the Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine (FAChPM) and served as a member of the Specialist Advisory Committee for Training in Palliative Medicine of the RACP.

The fourth edition of his textbook, Palliative Medicine, was published by Oxford University Press in 2004. He authored a number of other monographs, including Cancer Pain, Symptom Control in Advanced Cancer, and Pain and Symptom Control in AIDS.

Roger was a member of the Board of Directors of the IAHPC since its inception and served as its chairperson for three years, 1998-2000, following the retirement of Dr. Josefina Magno. In 2009 he was elected, along with Drs. William Farr and Derek Doyle, as an IAHPC Lifetime Board Member in recognition of his service and dedication to the organization.

Together with Derek Doyle, Roger coauthored three editions of the IAHPC Manual of Palliative Care. He contributed regularly to the IAHPC Newsletter, writing a monthly selection of book reviews, including the popular Palliative Care Book of the Month. Most recently, Roger compiled an e-book that offers guidance to IAHPC members on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Are they clinically necessary?

Dr. Woodruff passed away peacefully on July 18, 2021, in a palliative care unit surrounded by family. He was proud of all that the IAHPC was able to achieve during his lifetime of dedication to the organization.

Remembering Roger

“Roger's passing is a huge loss to the IAHPC. He was not only one of the four founders, but above all, a leading figure in the development of global palliative care. We had many things in common—in particular our strong belief that palliative care is the right approach to ensure dignity for patients facing end of life and for patients with serious health related suffering. Together we argued against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide—lauded by some as the way to achieve dignity in dying. His passion and his strong conviction that these were the easy way out and his fear that many palliative care patients could be offered PAS or be given euthanasia, were a driving force behind the IAHPC position statement against euthanasia and PAS, to which Roger, as a coauthor, contributed substantially. His book Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide: Are they Clinically Necessary? is one of the most frequently downloaded resources from our website.”

“Roger never shied away from voicing his opinion—even to those who disagreed with him. But he was always straightforward and candid. True to himself and his beliefs.”

“We miss him. Godspeed and peace be with you Roger. Thank you for your gifts to us and to the IAHPC.”

Lukas Radbruch

Liliana De Lima, MHA
Executive Director

“From what I saw, what I heard, and what others said, Roger made a massive contribution to palliative care. Let me explain. Roger lived, worked, and influenced in our earliest days when thousands of doctors were asking why we were needed. They honestly believed all doctors were doing wonderful work and could manage without us! Many resented any suggestion of spiritual need. He told me he had recently had a discussion with an Australian colleague who had forecast that within a few years palliative care would have died. He was told he was wasting time. They obviously did not really know Roger and his quiet determination. He sent reviews on dozens of new books and gave encouragement to hundreds like me working on new textbooks that added to our reputation.“

“Thank God for a dear friend!”

Derek Doyle, MD (UK)
IAHPC cofounder

“I worked with Roger for many years which was an honor. I was fortunate to have met him once. When I was editor of our newsletter he was always on time with his contributions. I considered him a dear friend and will miss him greatly.”

William (Bill) Farr, MD (USA)
IAHPC cofounder

“I was saddened to learn about the death of Roger Woodruff. Roger was one of the founding members of IAHPC and its president during 1998-2000. During the last part of his mandate, Roger contacted me and asked me to apply for the position of president, which I held during 2000-2004. The process of transition in leadership, as well as the move of the organization to Houston where it still resides, was complex; during those times I greatly enjoyed the friendly and talented advice I received from Roger. Over the years, I had the chance to meet him several times in Australia and elsewhere in meetings related to IAHPC and palliative care. Roger always displayed great knowledge of hospice and palliative care and a commitment to making our field reach patients everywhere in the world. He was a tireless teacher and contributor to our field and our organization. I will always treasure our conversations and emails. Godspeed Roger.”

Eduardo Bruera, MD (USA)
IAHPC Chair of the Board of Directors, 2000-2004

“Roger Woodruff was an exceptional palliative care expert and advocate who devoted his efforts to advance palliative care nationally in Australia and internationally through his IAHPC leadership roles. His publications and educational materials were pioneering efforts to provide health care professionals with the essential information they needed to care for the seriously ill and dying patient. He was the consummate clinician educator and help launch palliative care as a medical discipline in Australia.”

Kathleen Foley, MD (USA)
IAHPC Chair of the Board of Directors, 2005-2007

“It is sad to lose a teammate. I never met Roger. I only knew his image, a photo — It was a serious image, with his colored glasses. I perceived him as someone who observed how things evolved; I knew this was there. He was a point of reference and a generator of ideas and comments for several of IAHPC’s institutional projects: for example, I was amazed at his ability and interest in reviewing the 1500+ terms and definitions of Pallipedia—an incredible feat. It will be hard to match his uninterrupted task as a book reviewer for palliative care.“

“Roger, I never met you personally, but I always consider you among the greats. We will miss you. May you rest in peace, you deserve it.”

Roberto Wenk, MD (Argentina)
IAHPC Chair of the Board of Directors, 2008-2013

“I’m so sorry to learn of Roger’s passing. He made a generous gift of his time and expertise as a founding member of IAHPC and with his monthly book reviews. He will be missed by all who had the honor of working with him and those whose knowledge was broadened through his book reviews.”

Mary Callaway (USA)
Member of the Board of Directors

“So sad to hear of Roger's passing away. And so happy he had the peace and dignity we, and most importantly he, advocated. He will always be remembered for his contributions and the person he was. May he rest in peace.”

Chitra Venkateswaran, MD (India)
Member of the Board of Directors

“This is sad news. I did not know Dr. Roger Woodruff personally, but appreciated his book reviews in the IAHPC Newsletter. His death is indeed a great loss to palliative care worldwide.”

Harmala Gupta (India)
Member of the Board of Directors

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