Lives of the fellows

Werner Otto Carl Creutzfeldt

b.11 May 1924 d.30 August 2006
MD Kiel(1950) FRCP(1977)

Werner Otto Carl Creutzfeldt was a German physician who was an expert in the field of gastrointestinal endocrinology. Born in Kiel, his father, Hans Gerhard, was one of the first to identify the disorder which is now known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and his brother, Otto Detlev, was a distinguished neurophysiologist. He grew up in Berlin and during the Second World War his mother was imprisoned by the Nazis. He served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, and then attended the universities of Freiburg (where he studied philosophy and took part in the seminars held by Martin Heidegger), Kiel and Tubingen. At the Institute of Anatomy in Kiel, he finished his MD in 1950 and published his first paper, which was on diabetes mellitus and insulinoma, three years later.

In 1957 he became a lecturer at the University of Freiburg and, two years later, he spent some time in the USA as a visiting fellow at Boston and St Louis. On his return to Freiburg, he worked with Ludwig Heilmeyer, a celebrated expert in internal medicine. He then moved to Göttingen where he was appointed full professor in 1964 and he remained there until 1992, preferring to develop and consolidate a strong department for teaching and research despite many offers from other prestigious institutions. Many of his former students progressed to outstanding careers in the same field.

The editor in chief of the journal Digestion from 1979 to 1992, he was a prolific writer. He published over 750 scientific papers on topics ranging from neurosecretion of the pituitary to metabolic liver diseases and disorders of the upper GI tract. He continued to publish long after retirement - his last paper, which was on exocrine pancreatic function, appeared in 2005.

He was founding member, and president from 1967 to 1968, of the German Diabetes Society, president of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes from 1971 to 1974 and, in 1977, president of the German Society of Digestive and Metabolic Diseases. He also received numerous honours and awards, including the Claude Bernard medal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

In later years he became interested in medical ethics and, probably influenced by his experience as a young man of the Nazi regime’s abuse of ‘medical research’, was keen to define the boundaries in the use of human subjects. He was chairman of the ethics committee of the medical faculty from 1989 to 1994 and published two papers of particular interest: ‘Euthanasia: spiritual roots in the 19th, crime in the 20th, legalization in the 21st century’ (Med klin Munich, 2000, 95, 714-9) and ‘Function and duties of an ethics committee at a university faculty of medicine: 13 years of personal experience’ (Forensic Sci Int, 1994, 69, 307-14). All his life he fought against racial discrimination and anti-Semitism.

He had four children and died in Gottingen after a long struggle against a series of chronic illnesses.

RCP editor

[Digestion 2006 74 55-6; International Regulatary Peptide Society;Wikipedia - both accessed 23 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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