William Hammesfahr is an American neurologist practicing in Clearwater, Florida, who specializes in treating stroke victims. He is best known for his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case, during which he examined Schiavo and testified on behalf of her parents.
For stroke victims, Hammesfahr recommends aggressive treatment with drugs to open constricted blood vessels and improve blood flow to the affected areas of the brain. He also advocates using Transcranial Doppler testing (TCD) to monitor patients' progress, which involves using sound waves to measure the speed of blood flow through the brain. The concept of dilating blood vessels to treat strokes is not widely accepted by the medical community. Hammesfahr's research is not published in peer-reviewed journals, but in Lifelines, a medical journal hosted on his own website, Medforum.
In 2003, Florida's Board of Medicine accused him of "performing medical treatment below the standard of care, engaging in false advertising concerning his treatment of strokes, and exploiting a patient for financial gain." The board cleared him of the first two charges, but found that he had charged a patient for treatment she did not receive. The board's decision was overturned by the Florida Court of Appeal on March 26, 2004, which cleared Dr. Hammesfahr of the remaining charge. His clinic in Florida is in The Villages.
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He became the subject of public controversy in 2002 when he examined Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of a debate in the United States about euthanasia. Testifying on behalf of Schiavo's parents, Hammesfahr told a court that, contrary to majority medical opinion, which stated that Schiavo was in an irreversible persistent vegetative state, she was in a minimally conscious state and might recover. He testified that his treatment might improve her to the point of being able to communicate, a statement not regarded as credible by the other neurologists involved in the case.
Nobel Prize controversy
During the Schiavo hearings, Hammesfahr was criticized for saying he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine. He testified in 2002 that U.S. Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) had nominated him. In 1999, Bilirakis had in fact written a letter to the Nobel Committee recommending Hammesfahr for the prize, but he was not eligible to make such a nomination. Furthermore, the letter erroneously referred to the nonexistent "Nobel Peace Prize In Medicine."  Despite this, on March 21, 2005, during interviews about Schiavo on Fox News and MSNBC, Hammesfahr was billed as "nominated for the Nobel Prize" several times by hosts Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough. Pat Robertson also mistakenly introduced Hammesfahr on The 700 Club as a "Nobel Prize winner".
- William Hammesfahr M.D. -v- Department of Health, Board of Medicine (pdf), District Court of Appeal, Florida, March 26, 2004
- Doctor testifies he could help Schiavo
- Letter seeking to nominate Dr. Hammesfahr for a Nobel prize, signed by U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis
- Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Channel. March 21, 2005.
- Scarborough Country, MSNBC. March 21, 2005.
- Peeling the Onion: Reversing the Ravages of Stroke ISBN 0-9765756-0-4 This 2005 Hammesfahr Institute associate's book (Sora Publishers) prominently declares on the cover: "Introduction by William M. Hammesfahr, M.D., 1999 Nobel Prize Nominee"