- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Noble: Dr. Belding Scribner, a modest medicine man who saved millions.

Not many of the more than 90,000 people diagnosed each year with chronic kidney failure remember to thank Dr. Scribner before their dialysis begins. But they should, since most of them are still alive thanks to Dr. Scribner and Dr. Willem Kolff, the inventors of the dialysis machine.

Dr. Kolff was the first to create the artificial kidney. But, because it damaged the veins and arteries it was connected to, a patient could be dialyzed by it just a few times. Since kidneys are constantly needed to filter the body’s fluids, his machine gave little hope to those with long-term kidney failure.

Dr. Scribner was agonizing over the fate of one of those patients when he was hit with the solution. As he recounted, “I literally woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of how we could save these people.” The idea was what became known as the “Scribner Shunt.”

By tying the shunt directly into the circulatory system, patients could have their blood cleansed as needed. Blood would flow normally until it was time for the dialysis, at which point the tubes would be uncapped and the blood shunted though the machine. After the blood was cleansed, the machine was unplugged and the patient would go back to his normal activities. The first patient given Dr. Scribner’s shunt (in 1960) lived 11 more years. Thanks to biomedical advances since then, dialysis has become as convenient as it is commonplace.

Dr. Scribner spent most of his career at the University of Washington, commuting to campus from his houseboat via a canoe. He passed away this week at age 82. He will certainly be mourned. But he should be remembered each time his shunt saves a life.

Knaves: Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, for hypocrisy on Iraq.

Mr. Levin is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and therefore has access to plenty of information about places where the armed forces might be active. By March 1998, Mr. Levin had procured enough information about Iraq’s weapons programs to restate UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler’s opinion that Iraq had biological and chemical weapons. By then, Mr. Levin had enough experience dealing with the regime to tell his colleagues that, as far as weapons sites went, “Saddam is the one who is going to try to raise and create ambiguity.”

Since then, Mr. Levin has made several other statements acknowledging that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs posed a national security threat. For instance, last August, Mr. Levin stated: “There is no doubt in my mind that if we attack Saddam he would then respond with the use of weapons of mass destruction — gas, biological, and, at some time, if he has it, nuclear.”

But now, Mr. Levin is seeing grays. In a recent op-ed in the Detroit News, Mr. Levin wrote that “there is growing evidence that the intelligence on Iraq’s prohibited weapons was more ambiguous” than the administration made it appear. He went on to ask rhetorically, “Was there are a shading of intelligence information to fit a particular administration policy? Did administration officials exaggerate or overstate the intelligence information?”

But the real question is why Mr. Levin so suddenly sees shadows and shading in assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs. Surely he had access to the intelligence assessments — and the caveats — well before the war started. Yet, he said nothing. Regardless of the reason, there’s little ambiguity about the opportunism surrounding his new questions.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide