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Hastings Center News

Dr. Richard Payne Remembered

The Hastings Center’s staff and board of directors are profoundly saddened by the passing on January 3 of their friend, colleague, and trustee, Richard Payne. A neurologist, Dr. Payne was also an international expert in palliative care and pain management and care near the end of life. He advanced pain relief for thousands of patients, and instilled in his medical trainees and colleagues around the world an appreciation for the centrality of care, the importance of trust in the doctor-patient relationship, and the relief of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering.

“Richard Payne was a great doctor, scientist, colleague and friend,” said Mildred Solomon, president of The Hastings Center. “He was the epitome of a great physician, combining compassion with outstanding intellectual prowess and a quiet humility that enabled him to relate to people from different cultures, social groups and religious perspectives in the midst of their suffering. At the same time he was a great healer, he was also a highly effective change agent, working tirelessly to advance palliative care around the world.”

Dr. Payne served on The Hastings Center’s board of directors for 11 years, and during that time contributed to many projects related to ethics in health care.  For example, he was a member of the working group that produced The Hastings Center Guidelines for Decisions on Life-Sustaining Treatment and Care Near the End of Life, which set the standards for care of the dying now in use in hospitals across the United States. He led the selection process for The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards, prestigious prizes which recognize physicians who give excellent care to patients near the end of life. Andy Baxter, who founded the prizes and leads the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, expressed his sadness at the news of Richard’s passing:  “He inspired thousands of people to do the right thing.  We have lost a great human being, and I have lost a great friend.”

From 1992 to 1998, Dr. Payne was in charge of pain and symptom management at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  From 1998 to 2004, Dr. Payne led the Memorial Sloan Kettering Pain and Palliative Care Service, where he held the Anne Burnett Tandy Chair in Neurology and was Professor of Neurology and Pharmacology at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.  He was president of the American Pain Society from 2003 to 2004. More recently, he was the Esther Colliflower Professor of Medicine and Divinity at Duke University and the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City. There, he worked on a wide range of topics, including health care disparities, advance care planning for underserved populations, clinician cultural competency, genetic engineering, and medical professionalism.

He worked to ensure access to pain relief around the world, and was chairperson of the board of directors of the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and served on numerous boards and committees, including at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Payne authored more than 275 scholarly papers and edited four books.  He received his B.A in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University in 1973 and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1977. He completed his postgraduate training in medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and in neurology at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Richard Payne leaves his wife Terrie Payne, son Richard Jr, daughter Susan Oziogu, their spouses, and four beloved grandchildren, as well as many grieving colleagues around the world.  The family has requested tributes and donations to the American Cancer Society Mosaic Memorial Tributes & Donations or the charity of your choice.