Palliative medicine
Designatory Letters: 

All who had the pleasure of meeting or working with Geoff Hanks will understandably have different memories and descriptions of him. What no-one will deny is that he was a giant – intellectually, clinically, as a researcher, as a teacher, as a committee man, as a pioneer in palliative medicine. Asked for one word that totally described him, his closest colleague said ‘perfectionist’.

Already qualified as a physician and clinical pharmacologist, he went to Oxford to train under Robert Twycross before being appointed Consultant in Palliative Care at the Royal Marsden Hospital (London and Sutton). When the first Chair of Palliative Medicine was created in Guy's and St Thomas’ Hospital, London, he was the obvious man for the job. After seeing his team settled in he moved to Bristol to be Professor of Palliative Medicine and remained there until his relatively recent retirement.

He served on the Board of the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund in the UK, on the Board of the International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care and on the Board of the European Association for Palliative Care, finally serving as a distinguished President. He will also be remembered with affection and deep gratitude as the Editor-in-Chief of Palliative Medicine, now recognised as one of the finest specialist medical journals in the world, largely thanks to him.

With MacDonald and Doyle he a was co-editor of the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine and sat on many editorial boards. All this while serving as a senior clinician, a medical professor and a supervisor of PhD students, and playing his full role in the University of Bristol.

Always gentle and gracious, far more ready to listen than to talk, a delightful host, a riveting lecturer, an oenologist and one of the best friends many of us have ever had. Palliative medicine has lost one of its giants but we who are left will always be able to say we knew, and learnt from, one of the finest doctors and colleagues at work in this speciality to which he gave so much.

Let the final words of tribute come from another professor whom he had trained: ‘The sense of caring and importance he gave to all of us in every aspect of his interactions lasted until the very end. Geoff was a true inspiration for me – if I could achieve a fraction of his global generosity I would indeed be content.’

He is survived by his wife, Joan and their son and daughter.