August 4, 2003 by

Peter Safar

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Categories: Medicine

psafar.jpgDr. Peter J. Safar taught physicians how to cheat death.
During his distinguished career, Safar developed the first intensive care unit and paramedic ambulance service. He was a driving force behind the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in hospitals, and he received three nominations for the Nobel Prize in medicine.
Safar graduated from the University of Vienna School of Medicine in 1948, immigrated to the United States on a student visa, and spent two years as a resident at Yale University. Visa regulations required him to leave the U.S., so he spent 14 months working as the chief anesthetist at the National Cancer Hospital in Lima, Peru. He then secured a special-preference immigration visa to the states, which allowed him to practice at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. There Safar experimented on volunteers and documented the best steps for performing CPR.
In 1961, Safar moved to Philadelphia to work as a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He founded the International Resuscitation Research Center, which has trained more than 500 physicians in critical care medicine, anesthesiology, emergency medical services and disaster reanimatology.
As a researcher, Safar designed a technique to lower a patient’s temperature during cardiac arrest by inducing mild hypothermia. Injecting a cool liquid into the patient’s lungs during a heart attack would, in theory, lower overall body temperature and give paramedics a few extra minutes to arrive before permanent brain damage can occur. Safar received several grants from the U.S. Department of Defense to study this concept for use on the battlefield.
Safar died on Aug. 3 from cancer. He was 79.

2 Responses to Peter Safar

  1. Siegfried Willem Bok

    In memoriam Peter Safar,
    Dear colleagues,
    With a feeling of sadness I found the message of Peter Safar’s death, but my memories are still filled with admiration and thankfulness.
    It was 1978 that I was send to him by a personal friend of his – W. Erdmann.
    I was send to him with a special reason. It was a request of Erdmann to value a huge theory about cellular energy regulation, cellular mitosis and the onset on multiple organ failure.
    I was a young Dutch surgeon only and my fundamental research on this field didn’t found response. It didn’t found response, however – using this hypothesis – I was able to treat absurd seemingly untreatable diseases.
    I was invited for one week. At the moment that I arrived in Peter’s office, he told me : “I am so sorry, but my time is extremely limited. I decided to bring you for a court of specialists during each lunchtime. Every other day I will invite other colleagues to try to kill your hypothesis and at the end of the week I will give my comments on your theory about cellular life.”
    At the end of this huge confrontation his definitive conclusion was… “Congratulations. Nobody was able to find holes in your thesis. The theory is valuable and has to be published. Unfortunately my journal Anesthesia is too small for such huge view. My advise is : Send the hypothesis to my friend Horrobin – editor of Medical Hypotheses – and when he don’t accept it I will publish it myself.”
    After a memorable dinner in his house, I left Pittsburgh.
    Afterwards I had a few contacts with him and slowly it gets weaker.
    Unfortunately my own search into the labyrinth of mankind’s suffering obsessed me too much.
    With thankfulness I look back to this week in Pittsburgh. His enthusiasm was my trigger to go on. It lasted more than two decades to find the origin of our suffering.
    Reviewing my path through life, I wanted to contact Peter again and wanted to tell him about my definitive conclusions.
    I wanted to tell him about, but unfortunately he was no more.
    He was one of the most modest and “nobel” man I ever met.
    He gave his life for searching the Truth!
    Siegfried Willem Bok.
    Some references:
    -The fundamental role of hyaluronidase in tissue.
    Med. Hypotheses 1979; 5 : 1183-1200.
    -A new concept of glucocorticosteroidaction : Effects on hyaluronidase
    Med. Hypotheses 1983; 10 : 321-327.
    -The influences of hyaluronidase on traumatic cerebral edema.
    Anaesthesist 1980; 29, 245-248.
    -Hyaluronidase and collateral vessel growth.
    Proc.7 Int. Symp Angiology 1981.
    -Hyaluronidase, the fundamental cause of foetal growth.
    Med. Hypotheses. 1980; 1087-96.
    -De fundamentele rol van de placenta postpartum.
    Ned. Tijdschr. Integrale Gen. 1988; 5 : 99-102.
    -Hyaluronidase, from wound healing to cancer.
    Med. Hypotheses. 1981; 7 : 1147-56.
    -Hyaluronidase, from wound healing to cancer 2.
    Med-Hypotheses, 1982; 8 : 445-448.
    -Dem Leben mehr Jahre, oder den Jahren mehr Leben?
    Cythobiol. Revue, 1983; 3 : 101-116.

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