Intended for healthcare professionals


Klaus Riegel: paediatrician, teacher, and scientist

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 20 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3509
  1. Chris Mahony
  1. London
  1. chris.mahony{at}

An observation by German paediatrician Klaus Riegel, who died in June, captures a key element of his clinical philosophy while sounding rather arch, coming as it did from a man admired for his amiability. Opposed to supposedly heroic intensive care interventions for neonates and infants, Riegel drew a distinction between “those who turned buttons at machines and those who knew why.” In both his teaching and his clinical work, he made clear his distaste for interventions that brought no obvious benefit to the sick infant.

His contemporaries think that Riegel’s key achievement was developing interdisciplinary quality control and surveys of perinatal and neonatal deaths. This work improved international understanding of perinatal and neonatal mortality and transformed the working relationships between obstetricians, paediatricians, and neonatologists in Riegel’s home country.

Cultural change

Riegel had to overcome a culture that indulged the hunt for blame between obstetricians …

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