Petr Skrabanek

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Petr Skrabanek_table_infobox_0

Petr SkrabanekPetr Skrabanek_header_cell_0_0_0
BornPetr Skrabanek_header_cell_0_1_0 (1940-10-27)27 October 1940

Náchod, Protectorate of Bohemia and MoraviaPetr Skrabanek_cell_0_1_1

DiedPetr Skrabanek_header_cell_0_2_0 21 June 1994(1994-06-21) (aged 53)

Dublin, IrelandPetr Skrabanek_cell_0_2_1

Alma materPetr Skrabanek_header_cell_0_3_0 Charles UniversityPetr Skrabanek_cell_0_3_1

Petr Skrabanek (October 27, 1940 – June 21, 1994) was a doctor, physician, professor of medicine, and author of several books and many articles. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_0

Skrabanek was a lifelong champion of clear thinking, scepticism, and critical appraisal, and he expressed vocal criticism of what he dubbed "cacademics", "quackupuncturists" and "nonsensus-consensus". Petr Skrabanek_sentence_1

Skrabanek was a polymath, loving jazz, history, literature, playing the piano. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_2

He spoke several languages thanks to which he was able to deeply study Joyce's last work - the avant-garde novel Finnegans Wake. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_3

Career Petr Skrabanek_section_0

Skrabanek studied chemistry, joining the faculty of Natural Sciences at Charles University in Prague in 1957. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_4

Following his studies he was a researcher at the Institute for Toxicology and Forensic Medicine in Prague, graduating in 1962. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_5

He also frequently contributed short articles to the Czechoslovakian science journal Vesmír (Cosmos). Petr Skrabanek_sentence_6

Beginning in 1963, Skrabanek studied medicine at the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Brno, and wrote abstracts from journals published in Slavonic languages for Chemical Abstracts. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_7

Later he worked as an expert in forensic toxicology in Prague. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_8

In 1967 Skrabanek was selected to spend a month in Galway Regional Hospital. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_9

When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in July 1968, he and his wife Věra Čapková were on holiday in Ireland and they remained there as emigrants. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_10

Soon after, he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to finish his medical studies qualifying for practice in 1970. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_11

For the next four years he worked for the Medical Research Council laboratory and the department of internal medicine of Jervis Street Hospital. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_12

He left this post in 1975 to join the Endocrine oncology research team at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital as a senior research fellow, and as a leading specialist, he became involved in research into the neurotransmitter substance P. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_13

At the same time he completed his doctoral thesis "Inappropriate Production of Hormonal Peptides in Neoplasia". Petr Skrabanek_sentence_14

Starting in the late 1970s, Skrabanek dealt with wider medical questions of medicine. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_15

He wrote more than 300 articles, at first purely professional, but later he applied his broad knowledge towards commenting on current and general issues of medicine and science. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_16

He soon became a member of the Lancet Editorial Board and a valued, independent contributor. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_17

A number of his articles have been directed against mistakes and frauds in medicine and, above all, against charlatanism. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_18

In 1984, through Lancet, Skrabanek met his future colleague and collaborator James McCormick, who offered him a position at the Trinity College Dublin Department of Community Health with a grant from the Wellcome Foundation. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_19

Skrabanek later became a professor there, specializing in neuroendocrinology. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_20

From this position he "immediately began to establish his position as an original, cogent, and fearless critic, particularly in relation to preventive medicine. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_21

"While at Trinity, Skrabanek said "One of my duties is to protect people against the harm that over-enthusiastic doctors and misguided politicians can inflict upon them." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_22

Skrabanek maintained his reputation as a stringent and scathing critic of dogmas, sham, and wishful thinking pertaining to the areas of preventive medicine and alternative medicine. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_23

In 1991, Skrabanek became a Fellow of board of directors of Trinity College and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_24

in 2018, he became the seventh recipient of the Stearne medal, awarded by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland to "persons of distinction who have made a contribution to medicine in Ireland". Petr Skrabanek_sentence_25

Major works Petr Skrabanek_section_1

Follies and Fallacies in Medicine Petr Skrabanek_section_2

Skrabanek's first book, which was co-authored by J. MacCormick, entitled "Follies and Fallacies in Medicine", was published in 1989. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_26

It had a broad response and was promptly translated into Danish, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch and Czech, and is on the reading list of medical schools around the world, to encourage an appropriate skepticism about medical dogma. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_27

It was a critique against mistakes, delusions, myths and frauds in medicine and healing. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_28

The first chapter emphasizes the role of placebo as a little emphasized, but crucial element in medicine and healing. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_29

The importance of placebo is illustrated by numerous examples. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_30

In the second chapter, there are almost thirty different delusions and temptations, to which a doctor can succumb as a scientist and practitioner. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_31

A provocative chapter is one on prevention, the importance of which Skrabanek partly questions as he highlights possible risks. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_32

Another chapter is about alternative medicine, the validity of which he clearly rejects without tolerance or attempted reconciliation: Petr Skrabanek_sentence_33

The Death of Humane Medicine Petr Skrabanek_section_3

Even more controversial than Follies and Fallacies in Medicine is his last book, "The Death of Humane Medicine", subtitled "and the rise of coercive healthism". Petr Skrabanek_sentence_34

This was published in 1994, a year after Skrabanek's death, and had mixed reception; there was admiration and approval, but also sharp disagreement and resistance. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_35

In the book, Skrabanek comments on the current change in the understanding of medicine advocated by American and English medical societies and their governments. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_36

He says that the goal was no longer to help sick individuals, but to have a positive influence on the entire population. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_37

He writes that health ceases to be private and individual, instead becoming a moral duty, a new religion with priests and dogmas. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_38

Skrabanek also says that the state tries to interfere with the way of life, even against the wishes and interest of citizens. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_39

Skrabanek criticizes what he sees as the obsession with super-health, maximum prolongation of life, healthism and lifestylism, but especially with the coercion of the citizens to achieve these ideals. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_40

He disagrees with prohibitions of all kinds, with the fight against tobacco, obesity, alcohol consumption, and, on the contrary, the promotion of jogging and yogurt. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_41

Skrabanek goes so far as to see in this policy the continuation of the health policy of fascist Germany, and the totalitarian tendencies in the health of the Communist states,and says "The pursuit of health is a symptom of unhealth. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_42

When this pursuit is no longer a personal yearning but part of state ideology, healthism for short, it becomes a symptom of political sickness." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_43

Skrabanek also relies on his criticism of the evidence that most of the preventive and screening actions are less effective, scientifically unsubstantiated, and are often only a manifestation of the desire of bureaucracy for power and the efforts of pharmaceutical companies to increase profits. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_44

He also points out the huge and ineffective cost of such actions. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_45

Night Joyce of a Thousand Tiers Petr Skrabanek_section_4

Skrabanek was deeply interested in languages. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_46

He learned several major European languages during his student years, and was private pupil of rabbi Richard Feder in Brno and learned Hebrew. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_47

While in Ireland he became interested in the Irish language and also Hiberno-English. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_48

He also learned Japanese. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_49

Skabanek began to systematically devote himself to Joyce's Finnegans Wake in the early 1970s. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_50

While in Czechoslovakia, he became acquainted with the early Czech translations of Dubliners (1933), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1930) and Ulysses (1930). Petr Skrabanek_sentence_51

Skrabanek and his wife Věra decided to improve their basic knowledge of English by reading each day to each other several pages of Ulysses. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_52

Skrabanek's first encounter with Finnegans Wake was through an excerpt of the Anna Livia Plurabella section translated into Czech by Zdeněk Urbánek in 1966. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_53

He wrote his first article on Joyce in A Wake Newslitter in 1971. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_54

More articles followed, and Skrabanek became respected as an authority on Finnegans Wake. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_55

In the 1980s he began to hold seminars about Joyce's riddling text at University College Dublin. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_56

He focused mainly on the analysis of Joyce's work language components: his main contribution to the study of Joyce's literary experiment is the extensive dictionary of expressions taken from Slavic languages, but he also published articles about the use of Hebrew, Armenian, Japanese, Afar, and Irish English in Finnegans Wake. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_57

The article "Slavonicisms in Finnegans Wake" was originally published in Irish-Slavonic Studies. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_58

It was also reprinted in Litteraria Pragensia in the original English version. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_59

Skrabanek's contribution to the identification of Slavonicisms in the Wake cannot be overestimated. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_60

During the compilation of his Slavonic index, he was able to locate the elements from Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian and Bulgarian language. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_61

Collected articles about Finnegans Wake has been published under the title "Night Joyce of a Thousand Tiers: Petr Skrabanek Studies in Finnegans Wake". Petr Skrabanek_sentence_62

Response Petr Skrabanek_section_5

Three years after his death, the Skrabanek Foundation was established by his wife, friends and associates. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_63

Vera Capkova Skrabanek and James McCormick were company directors. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_64

The goal of the foundation was to provide a forum concerning general issues of medicine and ethics, along the lines of skeptical inquiry. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_65

The first interdisciplinary symposium held by the Foundation was held in May 1995 in Dublin. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_66

The foundation was dissolved in May 2005. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_67

Skrabanek was accused by the press of having been in the pay of the tobacco industry. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_68

The Guardian publicised the name of Skrabanek as “paid stooge”. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_69

Professor McCormick said: "I have never had a cheque from Philip Morris ... Petr may have done. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_70

I don't know if he did. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_71

We both knew there were people in the tobacco industry and elsewhere who thought our views were less inimical to their products than others." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_72

Robin Fox, editor of the Lancet from 1990-1995, said the journal was unaware that he was a consultant to a tobacco company. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_73

This hearsay received further coverage by New Scientist and in the BMJ. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_74

The Irish Medical Times wrote, "His several hundred publications demonstrated his breadth of scholarship and ability to communicate with learned and popular publications in a number of languages... As a teacher Professor Skrabanek is irreplaceable." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_75

Regarding Skrabanek's work, the British Medical Journal stated "With the spirit of European iconoclasm he kept the medical evangelists in their hot boxes... Petr Skrabanek_sentence_76

He was a good scientist, as his work on substance P testifies, but this was not to be his métier. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_77

Rather he chose to take the broader intellectual view of a profession in disarray, a profession in need of careful watching." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_78

"James McCormick and Prof Petr Skrabanek were internationally known as the bête-noires of establishment medicine; their book Follies and Fallacies in Medicine is one I find myself returning to again and again." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_79

said Muiris Houston, consultant in Medical Education at The Galway Clinic and award-winning medical journalist and health analyst with The Irish Times. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_80

At the time of his death The Times explained, "From his base at Trinity College, Dublin a stream of scientific papers and articles exposed the claims of public health doctors, epidemiologists, dietary evangelists and others that many diseases were preventable." Petr Skrabanek_sentence_81

In 2005, the president of the Dutch anti-quackery organisation Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij, Cees Renkens, wrote that Skrabanek was one of the first to warn for the dangers of 'randomised clinical trials of absurd claims' and pleaded for the 'demarcation of the absurd'. Petr Skrabanek_sentence_82

Selected bibliography Petr Skrabanek_section_6

Petr Skrabanek_unordered_list_0

  • The Death of Humane Medicine and the Rise of Coercive Healthism (1994)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_0
  • Follies and Fallacies in Medicine.] (1998)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_1
  • False premises false promises (2000)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_2
  • Night Joyce of a Thousand Tiers: Petr Skrabanek Studies in Finnegans Wake (2007)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_3
  • Who Needs WHO?: Three Views on the World Health Organization's Dietary Guidelines (Research Reports) (1995)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_4
  • Slavanic Slavar (Slavonic Dictionary) (1972)Petr Skrabanek_item_0_5

See also Petr Skrabanek_section_7

Petr Skrabanek_unordered_list_1

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Skrabanek.