Petr Skrabanek

Petr Skrabanek (1940-1994)

Prof Petr Skrabanek (1940 – 1994) was a Czech-born, Irish practicing physician and author.

Skrabanek was a critic of medical humbug and proponent of appropriate scepticism regarding medical dogma

Coined the term ‘coercive healthism‘ to criticize a wide set of public health initiatives including awareness campaigns; screening tests; preventive treatments and medical guidelines, intended to impose norms of a ‘healthy lifestyle

Skrabanek led fundamental research on the neurotransmitter Substance P on which he became a world authority

Wrote a series of scientific papers and articles exposing the claims of public health doctors, epidemiologists, dietary evangelists and others that many diseases were preventable

Scepticaemia, an uncommon generalised disorder of low infectivity. Medical school likely to confer lifelong immunity


Biography

  • Born 27 October 1940 Náchod, Bohemia (Czech Republic)
  • 1957 – Studied Chemistry at Charles University (Univerzita Karlova), Prague
  • 1962 – Research assistant – Institute for Toxicology and Forensic Medicine
  • 1963 – Medical studies Masaryk University (Purkyně University)
  • 1967 – Elective studies in Dublin at the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and decided to remain in Ireland and complete his medical studies
  • 1968-1970 Medical school of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • 1975 – Senior Research Fellow in the Endocrine Oncology Unit, Mater Hospital, Dublin
  • MD – Thesis ‘Inappropriate production of hormonal peptides in neoplasia
  • 1984 – Department of Community Health at Trinity College, Dublin
  • Died 21 June 1994 at the age of 53 (metastatic prostate cancer)

Healthism is a vile habit: It is no longer enough simply to be well; we are exhorted to pursue an impossible and illiberal cult of perfection


Medical Eponyms

Neologisms: ‘Schooliosis‘ (from ‘school’ and ‘scoliosis’) as a form of medical misdiagnosis. Preventative medical screening in school or college may lead to an incorrect or ‘overdiagnosis’ of scoliosis that triggers a series of unnecessary medical interventions on adolescents. See also ‘Disease mongering’

“Conviction politicians” may be popular, but conviction doctors are potentially dangerous


Controversies

  • Accused of being a consultant to the tobacco industry [BMJ 1998;316:1553]. Accusations have been dismissed as libel by those who worked with
    him, but as Skrabanek is dead he lacks any legal recourse

Major Publications

  • Skrabanek P, Gibney M, Le Fanu J. Who needs WHO? : three views on the World Health Organization’s dietary guidelines. London: Social Affairs Unit. 1992
  • Skrabanek P. The Death of Humane Medicine. London: Social Affairs Unit. 1995
  • Skrabanek P, McCormick J. Follies and Fallacies in medicine. 3e Tarragon Press. 1998 (1e 1898)
  • Skrabanek P. False premises, False promises. Tarragon Press. 2000
  • Skrabanek P. Smoking and statistical overkill. Lancet 1992;340:1208-09

References

  • McCormick J, Fox R. Death of Petr Skrabanek. Lancet 1994;344(8914):52-53
  • Mills S. Skrabanek dedicated his life to generating scepticism. BMJ 1998;317:351 [PMC1113645]
  • Steer P. Follies and Fallacies in Medicine. BMJ. 2008 Mar 22; 336(7645): 673. [PMC2270959]
  • Dyer C. Tobacco company set up network of sympathetic scientists. BMJ 1998;316:1553 [PMID 11645059]
  • Sherwood T. Ombudsman’s second report, and tobacco. Lancet 1998;352:7-8
  • O’Brien E. A vindication of Petr Skrabanek. Irish Medical Times 1998, July 31, p25.

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Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and informatics. Asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | vocortex |

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