Dr Coates was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1946, and studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He entered General (Child & Family) Practice in 1971, working in various parts of Australia and England before settling in Sydney, Australia in 1977.
His interests in western psychology and eastern philosophy brought him into contact with psychiatrist and thanatologist Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1979, and he subsequently spent a year studying at her training centre in California. At about the same time, seminal discussions with Jiddu Krishnamurti conceived his first book, "Wanterfall", which then gestated for nearly thirty years.
Returning to Sydney in 1981, he spent the next twelve years working in the field of palliative medicine. During those years, he directed new departments of palliative care in two Sydney teaching hospitals, attended a number of hospices, ran a community palliative care service and was a founding vice-president of the Palliative Care Association of NSW.
His ideas about emotional health, communication, relationships and the untapped mysteries of the human mind have been considerably influenced by this work with dying patients and their loved ones, as well as by his later work in geriatric community care and his lifelong interest in philosophy and comparative religion.
At the beginning of 2007, Dr Coates decided to close his medical practice in order to devote the majority of his time to writing. The first results of that decision were the books "Wanterfall" and "Notes on Communication". He is currently publishing shorter ebooks and articles on a wide range of topics, including understanding emotions, improving communication skills, self-help, personal growth, spiritual philosophy, pain management and travel health, as well as managing Wanterfall eBooks.