Lives of the fellows

Michael Moses Friedlaender

b.19 June 1942 d.24 August 2004
BA Oxon(1963) BM BCh(1967) DCH(1969) MRCP(1972) FRCP(1991)

Michael Friedlaender was an influential Israeli nephrologist who took a courageous stand on the legalisation of the trade in kidneys, arguing it should be a charge of governments. He was born in Manchester, England to parents who had fled the Nazis in Germany. His father, Rudolf Joshua Falk Friedlaender, was a physician who ran a busy general practice from his home. His mother, Eva Friedlaender, came from a family of art lovers and in her home there were paintings by van Gogh, Matisse and Munch. After schooling at Manchester Grammar School, Michael followed in his father’s footsteps and, after training at Oxford University and St Mary's Hospital in London, he established himself as a physician and nephrologist.

He received his nephrology training in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Kommunehospitalet. In 1975, he immigrated to Israel and he and his Israeli wife Liat established themselves in Jerusalem. His professional career was at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem in the nephrology services and his contributions to nephrology were profound. He spent sabbatical years at the State University of New York with Edward P Nord and Stanford University with Ralph Rabkin, where he was actively involved in laboratory investigations. These sabbaticals and his work with Mordecai M Popovtzer at Hadassah bore fruit in publications in a number of prestigious journals. These were related to the interactions of vitamin D metabolites and parathyroid hormone induced phosphaturia and endothelin action on the kidney.

However, he will be remembered both locally and internationally for his stand on behalf of patients with chronic kidney disease and their right to receive a renal transplantation. He was a devoted doctor and the well-being of his patients was his unwavering call. He had scant regard for the political machinations of the health system and would steamroller his way to obtain the correct care for his patients. He was a superb clinician and extremely dexterous in the performing of procedures on his patients. His office was always open for his patients and he was constantly answering their telephone queries. They in turn had total trust in this total doctor.

His stand on living, unrelated renal transplants evolved out of his concern for his patients. Michael refused to see private patients and any form of recompense beyond his salary was totally anathema to him. His retort was: ‘anyone can see me at my hospital clinic, all that they need do is phone and make an appointment'. So, he was naturally appalled at the rumours about unscrupulous nephrologists and surgeons and a host of middle men trading illegally in kidneys. However, he was not immune to the distress of his patients who were interminably waiting on transplant lists. He came to the conclusion that the only answer was for the government to become involved and legalise the whole process. The paid donor would not know the recipient and the donor would be recompensed and granted lifetime medical care by the state. These views he was prepared to publish and he lectured widely on them to international ethics meetings and nephrology and transplant meetings. He was also interviewed extensively by the international press and television channels. He always appeared with great composure and ease and was the most prominent proponent of his view. His stand was a courageous one, albeit controversial at the time. It is certainly feasible that eventually his views will be accepted by the authorities and a burgeoning industry will be removed from the back alleys to its rightful place in medical care. If so, it will be a fitting tribute to this gifted humanist, physician and nephrologist.

Michael’s untimely death left a great void in the nephrology services at Hadassah Hospital and to nephrology in Israel. He was the doyen of Israeli transplant nephrologists. He is sorely missed by his family, colleagues and patients. He was survived by his wife Liat.

Justin Silver

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List