Richard was introduced as the Chief of Surgery, the man of authority on the surgical floor and the final arbiter of any disputes pertaining to his staff and his hospital. Richard started having trouble seeing, and not completing simple surgeries. It turned out that he had developed a tumour, pressing against his optic nerve, and let Derek operate to remove it, under the radar of all the surgical floor. Later he fought with Derek to write him out for surgery.
During Season 6 Richard is found to be off the wagon and drinking again. This causes him to lose his job as Chief of Surgery for a period of time to Derek Shepherd. He eventually becomes sober again and after Derek steps down he is able to regain the position.
At the end of Season 7, his wife Adele, is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Throughout Season 8, Richard deals with her Alzheimer's becoming worse. She eventually asks Richard to place her in the Roseridge Home for Extended Care.
In Season 9, Adele dies of a heart attack after coming out of surgery.
In the Season 9 finale Richard appears to be dead after he was electrocuted, while trying to get the power back on in the hospital.
During their residency at Seattle Grace, he had an affair with Meredith's mother, Ellis Grey, although both were married. Although Ellis left her husband, Richard could not bring himself to leave his wife, Adele (he would learn decades later, however, that Adele had known about the affair all along and stayed with him anyway). He confessed in a later episode that he ended the affair because he believed that Ellis deserved better and that he had too much baggage.
Adele asked him to retire, forcing him to choose between his career or their marriage. He tried to skirt around it, but Adele, tired of waiting, made her choice and left him. He moved out and was sleeping in his office for a short time, but later had a room at the same hotel as Callie. After learning of Ellis's illness, Richard had been visiting her regularly, but upon deciding to attempt a reconciliation with Adele realized that he could no longer continue his emotional affair with Ellis. He attempts to patch things up with his wife, but is stunned to find out that she has apparently moved on to someone else.
Near the end of the third season, Adele is admitted to the hospital and is discovered, first by Addison and later by Richard, to be pregnant (at 52 years old). Though he believes the father to be the man Adele insinuated to be seeing months earlier, Richard stays by Adele's side as she is treated, though complications later arise and she loses the baby. Adele later admits to Richard that the baby, which was a boy, was actually his. At the conclusion of the third season, Richard and Adele decide to give their marriage another try.
Since the beginning of season 4, he and Adele have declared that his work is the reason that their marriage has failed. He moved in with his friend Derek Shepherd in his trailerhome. He is now trying to repair his life as a divorcé.
At the end of season 4, Freedom, Richard decides to move back home. He admits to Adele that he made a mistake 20 years ago but he's a good man, and he doesn't treat her as she deserves, putting his foot down. Adele comments "It's about time" and allows Richard to return home.
There are continuity errors regarding where exactly Richard built his career; at one point, he states that with the exception of his fellowship, he spent his entire career at Seattle Grace. However, it is also established that he both taught and befriended Addison and Derek, presumably in New York (the majority of references within the show, as well as additional sources, indicate that a good portion of Richard's career was spent in Manhattan, rather than Seattle).
A board member regards Richard as the best surgeon in the hospital, and is demonstrated on the occasion in the robotics lab where he takes the course as a "refresher", and he pits himself against Cristina Yang, losing in the first few tasks. In the last task, performing a minor operation, Richard manages to complete the surgery with his eyes closed, while Cristina struggles to get ahead. When asked how he managed to do so, he claims muscle memory - he is so used to these procedures knows how to perform the surgery with his eyes closed.
Richard had planned to retire and recommended Preston Burke as his successor, but after the secret of Burke's tremor and cover-up came out, that plan was put to a stand-still. Nevertheless, he has told the hospital board of his retirement and has yet to name his successor; Derek, Preston, Addison and Mark all eagerly clamoring for the post. Richard eventually chose Derek, but Derek tells him that Richard should remain chief.
In an attempt to move back home, Richard begins to delegate some of his work to other staff with responsibilities, such as the Chief Resident, at the time being Callie Torres, but as she was slightly unaware of what to do exactly, Miranda Bailey eventually replaces her, reducing Richard's burden. To assist with this further, he enlists George O'Malley to become the Chief's intern to assist with some of his day to day duties, such as passing messages, phone calls, charting, pre-op and post-op patients amongst other things, until George finally had enough after learning he failed his intern exam by 1 point.
In Season 6 after the Death of O'Malley and throughout the merger with Mercy Grace, Richard comes under a massive amount of stress. He makes a mistake on a patient that brings to the attention of Bailey that something is wrong. Eventually he takes Meredith under his tutelage where she finally figures out that he had started to drink again. Meredith eventually tells Derek and Derek brings it to the attention of the Board who force Richard to back down as Chief and in his responsibilites as a doctor and Derek takes over his position as Chief.
After a numerous number of days sober, Richard finally returns to being a General Surgery Attending under Shepherd. He is the doctor that was on the case of Gary Clark's wife and did her surgery. She did not recover however and died leaving Clark with a vendetta against him. In the Season finale of Season 6, Clark returns and begins to shoot people, mainly surgeons, in the hospital. Webber was not present at the time but once he hears what is going on he finds a way into the hospital and confronts Clark, who ultimately commits suicide.
In the beginning of Season 7, Derek resigns as Chief leaving Richard as interim Chief until the Board agree to let him come back full-time as the Chief of Surgery.
In Season 8, Richard takes the fall for Meredith's tampering of a Clinical Trial for Alzheimer's which could help Adele. He resigns as Chief and helps Owen Hunt obtain the job. He has since been a General Surgery Attending.
Notes and Trivia Edit
- He was a recovering alcoholic ("Superstition").
- He and Adele married when she was 25.
- In 2004, Webber won a plaque for "best doctors in America".
- His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- He taught a painful lesson to Addison about getting to close to her patients by giving her a patient that would eventually die. This resulted in her avoiding him for almost a year. She eventually taught Izzie Stevens the same lesson.