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March 23, 2005

Hammesfahr not nominated for Nobel Prize

Media Matters explains what Dr. William Hammesfahr's "Nobel nomination" amounts to. As you may recall, Dr. H. is the self-proclaimed eminent neurologist who says he can reconstitute Terri Schiavo's brain with the Alzheimer's drug Namenda.

Only about three thousand people are authorized to submit nominations for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The official nominators include former Laureates and distinguished academics.

The nominating panel does not typically include Republican congressmen from Florida like Mark Bilirakis, whose "nomination" can be read here.

Furthermore, official Nobel Prize nominations in Physiology and Medicine are kept secret for 50 years after they are submitted. So, anyone who claims to have been officially nominated for a recent Nobel Prize is lying.

Aspiring Laureates should consult the official Nobel Flow-Chart:



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» Wow. Just, wow. from Opiniatrety
There has been some talk lately of some silly doctor giving opinions on patients he has not examined who claims that he has been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Turns out that this nomination comes from a Florida... [Read More]

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» hammesfahr from Blog: Derek Rose
Am I naive to be stunned by this? Dr. William Hammesfahr was touted several times on Fox's Hannity and Combes and MSNBC's Scarborough Country as a "Nobel-Prize nominated neurologist." Only that's, well, a lie. (Why mince words about it?). Hammesfah... [Read More]


Another meme starting to go around is that the CT scans do not reveal a brain any worse-looking than scans of some Alzheimer's patients--or that the CT scans have been falsified altogether. (This one's coming from the nutty Dr. Boyle of CodeBlueBlog, who evidently thinks that he can raise doubts about Schiavo without actually examining her.) Are there any neuroscientists who have addressed this yet?

The Nobel "Peace" Prize for Medicine? There's a Nobel Prize for peace and a Nobel Prize for medicine, but there is no "Nobel Peace Prize" for anything but peace.

I'm a professor of neuroscience and look at scans like this often (though note that I am not a clinician).

The image over on Alas, A Blog is totally unambiguous. The ventricles are enormous and what is left of the cortical sheet is highly malformed. This brain is far worse-looking than a typical Alzheimer patient's brain, which in many cases needs to be examined postmortem for signs of the disease.

As to whether the image is faked, it would take a very careful look. If someone wanted to put one over, it would be more plausible to simply steal another patient's CT scan.

While we are on the topic, Hammesfahr has suggested giving an Alzheimer's drug (Namenda) to Schiavo. This is quite weird. That drug affects the NMDA receptor, which is important for learning and memory mechanisms in the cerebral cortex. Since Schiavo's cortex has atrophied beyond recognition, giving the drug would probably accomplish nothing.

A Congressman may have nominated Hammesfahr for some kind of Nobel, but we are really in Ig-Nobel territory!

I quickly checked journal databases Medline and Science Citation Index. Dr. Hammesfahr seems to have no scholarly publications whatsoever.

Thanks, Sam. I suspected as much. Here is the link to the original piece by Dr. Boyle. His most recent piece makes it pretty obvious where his biases are. Boyle insists that it's possible the shunt in her brain caused hydrocephalus, which screwed up the earlier CT scan. He constructs a little dialogue between himself and a "tube-puller" who he then accuses of murder when a redo scan is refused. It seems at first as if Boyle is willing to concede that the confirmation of PVS that could have come from a repeat scan is enough for him to consider the "tube-puller" innocent of murder. But Boyle, of course, in the absence of a brain scan to confirm his suspicions, can't possibly know whether the patient had a chance of improvement or not. Yet the "tube-puller" is a murderer to him despite the indeterminacy that he believes exists in the absence of a scan. So all the silliness with the repeat scan is just a sideshow--Boyle is going to believe whatever he believes, and it doesn't matter how many scans you do on Schiavo.

Thanks, B. If you read the comments that Dr. Boyle engages in after his post you link to above (under the screen name CodeBlueblogMD) you'll read the following: "Certainly all the other factors, including clinical and eeg evaluations come into play in diagnosing pvs -- I never dispute any other aspoect of the quantitative data in this case." And: "I just have never understood how a physician can support removing food and water from an otherwise living patient." So he is complaining about some interpretations of the CT scan, not really the PVS diagnosis. But apparently even when she or anyone else is in PVS, and the court rules the person would not want to be intubated, he wouldn't go along. Apparently he can't tell the difference between force-feeding and stopping such force-feeding and "withdrawing" food and water.

Did anyone hear the Sean Hannity montage on Al Franken this morning? He said "nobel-nominated" about 300 times, including once indicating that Hammesfahr was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

On CNN (LKL: 12:15 a.m. ET) Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) just cited Dr. Hammesfahr as supporting a claim of "misdiagnosis." He didn't say anything about the Nobel though.

Eh, Ms. Beyerstein is just jealous because she didn't get nominated for the Nobel Prize for Epistemology or Medicine.

But this does provide yet another instance of the split personality of the radical right. Prior to the election, I provided my father with an article from Physics Today which described a collection of Nobel Laureates in physics, many traditionally Republican, backing Senator Kerry due to the Bush budget's slash-and-burn approach to science funding, etc, etc. My father rejected it on the basis that dominionist broadcaster D. James Kennedy had had a scientist on his program who criticized the Nobel Prizes; among other things, Alfred Nobel was a very bad man! Yet when the wingers need to wave fake credentials around, the Nobel is apparently still the gold standard. Well, maybe it's a deliberate snow job for the heathens.

On the other hand, I think he was a C. Montgomery Burns Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Award nominee.

P.S. Who wants an award from those Swedish fascist socialist America-haters, anyway? Sniff.

: "I just have never understood how a physician can support removing food and water from an otherwise living patient."

#1 of course he doesn't understand, he's a radiologist with little or no experience in intensive care practice or terminal patients. He reads CXRs and Xrays of broken bones and such, he does not treat patients (or the arbiter of final diagnosis).

#2 it's not his place to understand. In ICU Management vol 5, issue 1 (sorry, I don't have the full citation because the journal's packed now), Zamperetti acknowldeges that understanding and/or agreeing with any patient's wish to refuse treatment (even when that refusal is for known effective therapy and will surely lead to death) is the patient's right. You need to be sure the patient understands and is willing to accept the consequences and try to encourage consideration of treatment when there is hope for improvement, but you do not have the right to force treatment (when that treatment is invasive, to do so is not only unethical but illegal). This right of refusal for an incompetent patient is given by proxy to a legally authorized representative; there is a higher burden to refuse effective therapy that has reasonable chance of improved outcome, but this is not applicable in the Schiavo case - there is no chance at improvement of condition and she is incapable of receiving the disputed nutrition through non-invasive means. Both the Quinlan and Cruzan cases and the judgements based on them are applicable here.

You didn't search deeply enough. He's been published -- in the National Enquirer!!!

Lindsay, I hereby nominate you for the Nobel Prize in Epistemology or Medicine. (No need to tell the Swedes about it, is there?) Take that, mds!

Great googly moogly. I checked to see whether that National Enquirer thing was for real--and it's actually up on Hammersley's own frickin' site. Great catch, Emmetropia.

Quick, somebody nominate me! I'm coming up for tenure next year, and a Nobel Peace Prize in metaphysics would help out a lot!

Not as much as it'll help if my latest paper gets published in _People_ or _Cat Fancy_, though--so keep yr fingers crossed...

Lindsay, I hereby nominate you for the Nobel Prize in Epistemology or Medicine. (No need to tell the Swedes about it, is there?) Take that, mds!

Yeah, well, I counter-nominate her for the Nobel Prize in Not Getting a Nobel Prize! Gosh, who among us ever guessed it was this easy? Thanks, Hannity!

Seriously, we are really facing a problem (which has been around at least as long as expert witnesses): credentials. The bulk of the public seem to have no clue how to weigh the credentials of supposed experts. So now in Florida we get a "Mayo Clinic" doctor offering his opinion, without a diagnosis, on a medical area in which he does not have expertise. But he's affiliated with the Mayo Clinic! Similarly, the Discovery Institute just has to point to a scientist who doesn't accept evolutionary theory, and what matters is that he's a scientist. Never mind that he's an aerospace engineer.

So what's to be done? Public ridicule seems promising (and fun), but as usual, it's hard to get the message out.

In the short term -- public ridicule of the MEDIA for getting taken in by these charlatans with fake credentials.

In the long term -- building an alternative media infrastructure that is willing to go beyond he-said-she-said and actually report on what's happening in the reality-based communities of the world.

Congressman Chris Smith, R-4th Dist, NJ, had a column in today's Star Ledger in which he referenced Dr. Hammesfahr. I just called Cong. Smith's office suggesting that he may want to refrain from using Hammesfahr in any future comments as the doctor is NOT Nobel prize nominated and was also disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine only 2 years ago.

WK (or anyone else): What was the crux of the FBM discipline?

Kriston: see here (via Media Matters). Basically, he claimed in promotional materials that his stroke treatment using vasodilators helped a bunch of people and that he had published peer-reviewed articles to back up the results. Basically, it looks like the guy's a quack--most doctors who testified with the Board of Medicine agreed that the vasodilators are a bogus treatment that actually could harm people more than they help them.

Ok, correction--even though the treatment method seems dubious, the action by the board was for charging a patient for services that weren't actually performed.

Certainly, as a quack, Hammesfahr has a career path that includes Senate Majority Leader.

For penalties, note he was on probation for 6 months. And the humilitation of monitoring - albeit indirect - by another physician.

"Teacher Teacher, I have to go number 1 please!"

No one has proven that Hammesfahr is NOT a Nobel nominee. As the nomination info is kept secret for 50 years, I don't how anyone could. But, just because the Congressman that wrote the letter is not an 'official nominator', that does NOT mean he wasn't 'nominated'. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

BTW, I did do some research on the Karolinska Institutet site. Guess what? There ARE two (2) links that will come up from their 'search' IF you spell it 'Hammersfahr'!

WTF? Same guy? Sure sounds like him!

No one has proven that Hammesfahr is NOT a Nobel nominee. As the nomination info is kept secret for 50 years, I don't how anyone could.

Think about it. If Hammesfahr had gotten an official nomination, he wouldn't know about it. He certainly wouldn't be entitled to brag about it on his website, and it would be awfully disingenuous of him to wave that Congressman's letter around as "proof" if he knew perfectly well that the letter was worthless.

And, um, Dude, you're linking to books in the Karolinska Institute library catalog.

- About Cerebral Vasospasm: A common and clinically treatable entity [WM Hammersfahr; 1995]
-Vasospasm, Intracranial - Vasospasm - A Primer for Patients [WM Hammersfahr]

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