Belding H. Scribner, who invented a device that allowed people to live on long-term kidney dialysis, died Thursday, June 19, in the waters near his Seattle houseboat. He was 82.
This year Scribner received the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for his 1960s success in turning irreversible kidney failure from a fatal to a treatable disorder.
After seeing short-term dialysis help a UW patient temporarily recover from kidney failure, only to succumb when doctors ran out of veins and arteries for hooking up the machine, Scribner had a idea: Insert a U-shaped tube into an artery and a vein. Working with engineer Wayne Quinton and surgeon David Dillard, and listening to surgeon Loren Wintersheids suggestion to use Teflon coating to prevent blood clotting, Scribner and his team created shunts that made long-term dialysis possible.
The Scribner shunt saved lives, but dialysis machines were scarce. To resolve the problem of allocating the live-saving resource, an anonymous committee decided which patients who had already met medical criteria for dialysis would receive it. The situation ignited public interest in bioethics.
Scribner continued to improve therapy for kidney disease; to make home dialysis possible by designing smaller, portable machines; and to develop ways to nourish people whose digestive systems had shut down. Scribner was chief of nephrology at the UW from 1958 to 1982.
Scribner joined the UW faculty in 1951. He was a graduate of University of California Berkeley, the University of Minnesota, and Stanford Medical School. As a young man he was concerned that his severe asthma and failing eyesight would sideline his medical career. Instead, he became a world leader in the emergence of machines to replace functions of damaged, vital organs.
Scribner is survived by his wife, Ethel Scribner, one daughter, three sons, three stepsons, and several grandchildren.
A public memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Monday, June 30, in Hogness Auditorium, UW Magnuson Health Sciences Center, Seattle. A reception will follow in the Health Sciences lobby.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the UW Scribner Dialysis Fund, care of UW Medicine,1325 Fourth Ave., Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98101, or made online at the Support UW Web site. If you are on the UW campus, you may put your contribution in campus mail to Box 358220.
The UW also plans to host an international symposium in Scribners memory within the next academic year.