You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

June 7: Keeping the World’s Heart Beating

June 7, 2014
Dr. Lown-81Heart doctor Bernard Lown was born in Lithuania on this date in 1921. Lown is the inventor of the direct current defibrillator and the co-founder with Soviet cardiologist Yevgeny Chazov of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. His other pioneering contributions to cardiology include the use of digitalis and lidocaine to control dangerous heart rhythms; the overturning of the “bed rest” prescription for heart-attack patients through the introduction of “chair treatment,” which cut mortality by more than half; an international consultation system by satellite about cardiovascular research and care; and the development of cardioversion, electrically or drug-induced, to normalize heart rates. Lown was also the convener of Physicians for Social Responsibility in 1961 and helped to organize the Committee of Responsibility for War-Injured Vietnamese Children (COR). A lifelong international peace activist, he has been a leader in the movement for accessible, patient-centered health care in Massachusetts, and is the founder of the Lown Institute, which is dedicated to transforming the healthcare system and our larger society. In 2008, he published Prescription for Survival, and at 93 years of age, he actively writes articles and blogs. To see part of a documentary about his career, look below. “[T]he doctor, by virtue of accepting science so totally, creates a total imbalance, forgetting the art of healing, forgetting the art of engagement, forgetting the art of listening, forgetting the art of caring and ceasing to invest time with the patient. So I believe medicine has lost its human face.” —Bernard Lown