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Palliative care pioneer leaves legacy gift to the Royal Society of Medicine

Dr Thelma Bates OBE, a palliative care pioneer, has left the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) a generous financial gift in her will.  

Dr Bates, who died in 2023 aged 93, had been an RSM member for over half a century. 

Professor Roger Kirby, RSM President, said: “Dr Bates was one of our longest-serving Fellows and we were most grateful for her support over the last 52 years. Her generous legacy gift will help the RSM to inspire and support the next generation of doctors and healthcare professionals.” 

Dr Thelma Bates became a Fellow member of the RSM in 1971, four years after being appointed as a clinical oncologist at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Specialising in the treatment of breast cancer, she was the hospital’s first female clinical consultant. 

In 1977, after observing an experimental palliative care unit in New York, Dr Bates helped establish the UK’s first hospital-based end-of-life care unit. 

The palliative care unit at St Thomas’ was so successful that an outpatient clinic and home care service was established. A decade later, the model had been replicated in 20 hospitals across the country. 

Dr Bates also helped establish and was a founding trustee of the Princess Alice Hospice in Surrey, which today cares for more than 500 patients. 

A major figure in the international palliative care community, Dr Bates retired in 1991. However, she then went on to serve as President of the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement, Chair of the General Medical Council’s health committee, a trustee of the Sick Doctors’ Trust and a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel. 

She is survived by two children, Annie and Richard, and a grandson. Her son, Charlie, died in 1991. 

The Royal Society of Medicine is holding a memorial event for Dr Bates at 3:30pm on Monday 18 March 2024. 

Find out more about leaving a legacy gift in your will

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