A legacy of lives saved

Dr. Belding Scribner's death at age 82 comes nine months after he was awarded the prestigious 2002 Lasker prize for medical research. His true legacy is the millions of people who owe their productive lives to his innovative thinking.

Scribner, who died last week in Seattle, was honored for clinical research along with Dr. Willem Kolff, who developed the artificial kidney in the 1930s and 1940s.

Scribner's contribution was to develop a device that made kidney dialysis a practical, long-term treatment. Working with Dr. David Dillard and medical engineer Wayne Quinton, Scribner turned a middle-of-the-night inspiration into a U-shaped shunt that safely connected the patient to the machine for treatment.

Success put Scribner into the forefront of a dilemma. The pool of potential beneficiaries far outstripped the number of dialysis machines.

Seattle opened the world's first kidney center in 1961 at Swedish Hospital, but treatment was rationed in the early years by an anonymous committee of community leaders.

Scribner saved lives by working on the frontiers of medical technology and biomedical ethics. His life was a celebration of innovation, collaboration and substantive, life-altering contribution.