Dubious doctor touted as Nobel Prize nominee by Hannity, Scarborough


Fox News host Sean Hannity and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough both promoted Dr. William Hammesfahr's false claim that he is a Nobel Prize nominee.

Hammesfahr* testified during an October 2002 court hearing on the Schiavo case that his claim to be a Nobel nominee is based on a letter written by Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) recommending him for the prize. But Bilirakis is not qualified to make a valid nomination under the Nobel rules.

According to the process posted on the Nobel Prize website, the Nobel Assembly sends out invitations to approximately 3,000 people who are allowed to propose candidates. The 3,000 are "mainly members of the Nobel Assembly, previous prize winners, and a selection of professors at universities around the world." In providing detailed information about those who can submit nominations, the site states:

Right to submit proposals for the award of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, based on the principle of competence and universality, shall by statute be enjoyed by:

  1. Members of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm;
  2. Swedish and foreign members of the medical class of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences;
  3. Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine;
  4. Members of the Nobel Committee not qualified under paragraph 1 above;
  5. Holders of established posts as professors at the faculties of medicine in Sweden and holders of similar posts at the faculties of medicine or similar institutions in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway;
  6. Holders of similar posts at no fewer than six other faculties of medicine selected by the Assembly, with a view to ensuring the appropriate distribution of the task among various countries and their seats of learning; and
  7. Practitioners of natural sciences whom the Assembly may otherwise see fit to approach.

Decisions concerning the selection of the persons appointed under paragraphs 6 and 7 above are taken before the end of May each year on the recommendation of the Nobel Committee.

But the fact that Bilirakis is not qualified to nominate Nobel Prize winners did not stop Scarborough or Hannity from referring to Hammesfahr as a Nobel Prize nominee. Hannity did so a total of eight times during a single hour-long program; Scarborough made the reference four times. Additionally, Scarborough erroneously claimed that Hammesfahr has "treated" Schiavo; in fact, Hammesfahr has merely examined her as one of five doctors approved by a Florida court in 2001 to do so. He was one of two doctors selected by Schiavo's parents; two others were selected by Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, and the fifth was chosen by the court.

From the March 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: And we're going to talk to a doctor who spent 10 hours with her tonight, and he says that he believes, in his expert opinion -- this is a man that was nominated for a Nobel Prize, by the way -- that she could be rehabilitated.


HANNITY: And coming up later in the program tonight, we're going to meet a doctor who actually spent 10 hours examining Terri Schiavo. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize. He believes that she could be rehabilitated.


HANNITY: You were nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine?



HANNITY: You were nominated to get a Nobel Peace Prize in this work. Are you saying that this woman could be rehabilitated?


HANNITY: How is it possible we're in this position if you have examined her? You were up for a Nobel Prize. This is mind boggling to me.


HANNITY: Well, this is what I want to understand. This is your area of expertise that got you nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in medicine, the Nobel Prize.


HANNITY: -- hang on a second -- and talk to a Nobel prize-nominated physician who spent 10 hours with her, who believes if, given the opportunity, he can rehabilitate her?


HANNITY: Imagine being in his position and having a guy like a Nobel Prize nominee like Dr. Hammesfahr, who I'm looking at right now, who spent 10 hours with her and feels that, given the chance, he could rehabilitate this girl.

From the March 21 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

SCARBOROUGH: 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.


SCARBOROUGH: And I'm going to be talking with a Nobel Prize-nominated neurologist who has treated Terri Schiavo and he says her husband is pulling a huge hoax simply to kill his wife.


SCARBOROUGH: Coming up: a Nobel Prize-nominated neurologist who is treating Terri Schiavo says her husband is pulling a hoax.


SCARBOROUGH: So, what is Terri Schiavo's true medical condition? Here to help us sort it out is Dr. William Hammesfahr. He's a neurologist who was nominated for a Nobel Prize for his work in medicine. And he's one of the doctors who has treated Terri Schiavo.


In this item, Media Matters previously wrote that the Florida Board of Medicine disciplined Hammesfahr in 2003. We have subsequently learned that the board's action was reversed on appeal in 2004 by the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal. We regret the error.

Posted In
Health Care, End of Life Issues
Terri Schiavo
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.