Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of
Religion and Medicine

by Dr. Richard P. Sloan, PhD
Blockbuster New Book tackling the thorny issues about religion, prayer and medicine. If you've been told that you have an incurable illness, and that prayer will help --- think again.

This book will open your eyes. Dr. Sloan is a professor at the Columbia University School of Medicine and he introduces us to the major players in this new area of Christian evangelism. The studies purporting to show any health benefits from going to church or "being religious" are all so flawed as to render them useless. Using his epidemiological knowledge, Sloan carefully shows the reader how one should analyze claims from the media and claims in journals that purport to show a connection between religious behavior and improved health.

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    William Hammesfahr, M.D.
    Questionable Nobel Prize Nominee
    and advocate for the Shindler family in the Terri Schiavo case

    Please answer yes or no to the following questions about Dr. William Hammesfahr from Clearwater, Florida:

    Would you seek medical care from a doctor who?:

    1. Repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, advertises himself as a Nobel Prize Nominee in 1999, when the only person who appears to have nominated him is his own U.S. Congressman?
    2. Does not seem to have published a single peer reviewed scientific article in a recognized medical journal.

    3. Says he hasn't done the rigorous clinical studies because he's too busy treating patients and because he feels it would be unethical to withhold the treatment from some patients in order to study them.

    4. Claims that Terri Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state and that therapy can help her.

    5. Appears on national TV shows and clearly indicates that Terri Schiavo's spouse tried to kill her.

    Affidavits filed on behalf of Terri Shindler-Schiavo

  • June 1, 2001 - This is where he states, "that the CAT scan readings or MRI readings of Ms. Schiavo's brain were misrepresented to the Court during the trial in January 2000". He also makes the statement that she, "is not in any sort of coma, whether persistent vegetative state or otherwise".

  • Unsigned examination report September 12, 2002 - He makes the claim that, "The patient was alert throughout essentially the entire exam". Furthermore, "At various times during the exam, I asked her to close her eyes, or open her eyes widely, look towards her mother, or look towards me. At times, she appeared to properly follow these commands".

    There are so many questionable statements made about the examination that I wonder about the ability of the examiner to come to the conclusions that he did, or to make the recomnendations that he made.

    Among Hammesfahr's recommendations and conclusions:

    • Communication: She can communicate. She needs a Speech Therapist, Speech Pathologist, and a communications expert to evaluate how to best communicate with her and to allow her to communicate and for others to communicate with her. Also, a treatment plan for how to develop better communication needs to be done.
    • Rehabilitation Medicine: The patient has severe contractures. She needs a specialist to evaluate these and develop a treatment plan.
    • Endocrine: The patient has clinical evidence of an abnormally functioning endocrine system. Her blood pressure is abnormally low. Many patients with severe neurological injury have low blood pressure due to an abnormally functioning endocrine system. The reason for this should be determined and corrected, as with a more normal blood pressure, she is likely to have even better neurological functioning. She has facial acne consistent with hormonal abnormalities.
    • ENT: The patient can clearly swallow, and is able to swallow approximately 2 liters of water per day (the daily amount of saliva generated). Water is one of the most difficult things for people to swallow. It is unlikely that she currently needs the feeding tube. She should be evaluated by an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, and have a new swallowing exam.
    • Mammography needs to be performed.
    • Spinal Exam: The patient's exam from a spinal perspective is abnormal. The degree of limitation of range of motion, and of spasms in her neck, is consistent with a neck injury. The abnormal sensory exam, that shows evidence of her hypoxic encephalopathic strokes (right side sensory responses are different from left) also suggests a spinal cord injury at around the level of C4. Her physical exam and videotapes also suggest a spinal cord injury is also present, as she has much better control over he face, head, and neck, than over her arms and legs. This reminds one of a person with a spinal cord injury who has good facial control, but poor use of arms and legs. It is possible that a correctable spinal abnormality such as a herniated disk may be found that could be treated and result in better neurological functioning. This should be looked for, as may be treatable. Thus, there may be an injured disk or spinal cord; the disk injury is more treatable, the spinal cord injury, if present without a disk injury, may be more difficult to treat. A person with a spinal cord injury and hypoxic encephalopathy will need different treatment and rehab recommendations than one who just has a hypoxic encephalopathic.

      Interestingly, I have seen this pattern of mixed brain (cerebral) and spinal cord findings in a patient once before, a patient who was asphyxiated.

    • EEG: I have reviewed the EEG recently obtained. The EEG has large amounts of artifact. The technician's attempted to remove artifact by filtering. Unfortunately, filtering also affects and reduces evident brain electronic activity. This EEG is not adequate and should be repeated. It should be repeated at the patient's bedside, with the patient in a non-agitated state.
    • SPECT scan: A SPECT scan prior to and after several days of Hyperbaric Trial should be obtained. Such a Hyperbaric Oxygen trial does not constitute treatment, as the length of time of such hyperbaric is inadequate to render any treatment. However, it is a useful technique to assess the likelihood of improvement using hyperbaric oxygen. I would defer to Dr. Maxfield on the specifics of testing, but believe that it is generally accepted by those in the field who have experience with hyperbaric treatment, that Dr. Maxfield's recommendations in this area are accurate.

    Recent links and internet searches

  • Hammesfahr stumbles when challenged by L.A. Talk Show - audio file Another John & Ken interview that didn’t go well.

    Dr. William Hammesfahr is making the media rounds, claiming that Terri Shiavo could recover with the correct treatment, based on his research. He also claims that he is a Nobel Prize Nominee, based on a note he got from some guy a few years ago. John & Ken called him on the dubious nature of his so-called nomination, but unfortunately he terminated the call before they could call into question the veracity of his “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug.

  • Fact checking the Schiavo experts - Numerous "experts" have weighed in on the Terri Schiavo case since it began -- some more dubious than others. On Monday, Fox News' Hannity and Colmes presented Dr. William Hammesfahr, a Florida neurologist who examined Terri in 2002, and who insists that Terri is not in a permanent vegetative state. Alongside Hammesfahr's rather astonishing prognosis, Hannity made sure to take note of Hammesfahr's lofty qualifications:

    Hannity: Do you believe she is aware, conscious and responsive?

    Hammesfahr: Terri is completely aware and conscious and responsive. She is like a child with cerebral palsy. We have kids in the Pinellas County school system every day that are much worse than her, that we're educating.

    Hannity: Doctor, wait a minute. I've got to get this straight here. You were nominated to get a Nobel Peace Prize in this very work. Are you saying that this woman could be rehabilitated?

    Hammesfahr: Absolutely.

    Hammesfahr appeared on Scarborough Country the same night and received a similar introduction as a Nobel Prize nominee. Problem is, that's not quite the truth -- Hammesfahr was never officially nominated for a Nobel Prize. In 1999, a U.S. Congressman recommended him in a letter to the Nobel Committee for his work with stroke patients. But according to the committee's Web site, such unsolicited letters constitute "invalid nominations" and are not considered.

  • News Hounds Blog critique of Fox - Transcript of Hannity & Colmes

  • Riffle Blog on Hammersfahr - Reality based community service

  • Excellent discussion of Hammesfahr - Media Matters for America - Transcript of Scarborough where Hammesfahr accuses Michael Schiavo of trying to kill his wife.

  • News outlets ignored questions about doctor who claimed Schiavo can be helped - Media Matters for America Dr. William Hammesfahr, a Florida neurologist who claims that he can help Terri Schiavo, has promoted his treatment plan on Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club and has been cited by anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, a spokesman for Schiavo's parents, in newspaper articles. But questions have been raised about Hammesfahr, who was disciplined by the Florida Department of Health in 2003, and news outlets that have repeated Hammesfahr's claims have ignored those questions.

    In February 2003, the Florida Board of Medicine ruled that he violated state law by charging a patient for services that were not provided (Finding of Fact No. 71, PDF p. 40) [.pdf file - 96 pages]. The board fined Hammesfahr $2,000, placed him on probation for six months, and ordered him to pay approximately $52,000 in administrative costs and to perform 100 hours of community service. While the board also ruled that Hammesfahr's treatment of stroke patients, using a procedure he has claimed could help Terri Schiavo, was "not within the generally accepted standard of care" (Finding of Fact No. 55, PDF p. 33), it declined to rule that the treatment was harmful to his patients and noted that some patients improved after treatment.

  • In addition to his appearance on The 700 Club, Hammesfahr has discussed the case on the October 27, 2003, edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, during which he repeated his claim that Terri Schiavo is "not in a coma." Co-host Sean Hannity did not note Hammesfahr's disciplinary action by the Florida Board of Medicine, and he encouraged Hammesfahr to speculate on other aspects of the Schiavo case. A clip of Hammesfahr from his Fox News appearance was played on the November 9, 2003, edition of CBS' Sunday Morning.
  • Pulling the plug on fairness - great review of Hammesfahr and his battles with the press William Hammesfahr, a neurologist brought in by the Schindlers for a 2002 hearing who claims that Terri Schiavo is not in the "persistent vegetative state" claimed by Michael Schiavo. An Oct. 23, 2002, Miami Herald article notes that Hammesfahr "charges cash for treatments and advertises himself as a nominee for a Nobel Prize based on a letter his congressman wrote to the Nobel committee." An Oct. 25, 2003, St. Petersburg Times article noted that Hammesfahr "offered no names, no case studies, no videos and no test results to support his claim" that Terri Schiavo could be helped.

  • Al Franken says this to Joe Scarborough - March 23, 2005 Most people in the polling that’s been done would not want to live like she’s living. She brain-dead. Now, here’s where a lot of misinformation has been passed, including by you, Joe. The other night, you said this and you said it four times. This is how you teased this. “And a Nobel Prize-nominated neurologist who has treated Terri Schiavo, he says Terri should live and that her husband is perpetrating a hoax that is just aimed at killing his wife.”

    This Dr. Hammesfahr is not a Nobel Prize nominee. You said that four times. He did not treat her. You said that four times. You have to do your research, Joe. There is no such thing as a Nobel Prize nominee. Now, he claims to be a Nobel Prize nominee because a letter was written to the Nobel Committee by Representative Mike Bilirakis.

    Since the Schiavo affair began, this neurologist who brags about his alleged "Nobel Prize Nomination" openly on his web site has appeared on scores of radio and TV shows. I would assume that Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity had no idea that his "nomination" was made by his own Congressman, Michael Bilrakis, from Clearwater, Florida.

    As fas as his qualifications are concerned, Hammesfahr is a board certified neurologist who had his troubles at one time in his home State over the billing of a patient. If you would put his c.v. next to a real Nobel Prize nominee, it would be worth absolutely nothing. He is not on the staff of any teaching hospital, nor does he appear to have any affiliation with a medical school. So, what in the world was this Congressman nominating him for in the first place back in 1999?

  • Stroke therapy's creator labeled pioneer, quack - St. Pete Times
    - Jul 7, 1999. pg. 1.B Hammesfahr has been mentioned on Quackwatch, a Web site focusing on fraud and quackery in medicine. His articles have been turned down by well-known medical journals. And a Miami Beach neurologist has filed a complaint with the state accusing Hammesfahr of fraudulent advertising. "In my opinion, it's irresponsible to market any treatment to the public before it has gone through the peer review process," said Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist who wrote an article about Hammesfahr for Quackwatch.

  • Terri Schindler Schiavo and the Cardiac Arrest/Heart Attack Lies - Blog Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world-reknowned neurologist wrote a complete report regarding Terri Schindler Schiavo dated September 12, 2002. The report reveals that medical tests conducted after Terri's collapse did not show evidence of a heart attack:

  • Scientology connection in Clearwater area blamed for Terri's plight - This is yet another wild claim made by the people who run Blog. How anyone can believe this is beyond me. Terri Is Being Held in Scientology-controlled Downtown Clearwater: Her Health is Deteriorating. Downtown Clearwater Florida—where Terri is imprisoned in isolation from the world—is the Scientology training ground stronghold of the world. A prime example of Michael Schiavo's application of Scientology doctrine is his decision to place Terri Schindler Schiavo in solitary confinement. He appears to be making an effort to cause Terri to lose the will to live and thus be permanently quarantined from society!

  • Search Google for Hammesfahr and "Nobel Prize" on March 22 had 645 hits

  • Search Google for Hammesfahr and "Nobel Prize" and Schiavo on March 22 had 479 hits

  • Search Google for Hammesfahr and "Nobel Prize" without Schiavo on March 22 had 165 hits

  • Search Google News for Hammesfahr and "Nobel Prize"

  • Medline search for his name comes up EMPTY" Just put "Hammesfahr W" in the search box.

    Terri Schindler-Schiavo claims

    It seems that the association of Hammesfahr with the Schindler family goes back a few years. Here are a few of the most interesting links from the many web sites controlled by the Schindler family and their associates:
  • Terrisfight Timeline

    Hammesfahr's incredible legal battle with the Florida Board