The Nobel Prize committee is not changing its decision to award the 2011 prize in medicine to a recipient who died days before the announcement was made, the committee said.
This morning (Oct. 3), three researchers, Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Dr. Ralph Steinman, received the prize for work that provided key insights into how the immune system is activated. Later that afternoon, the committee received word that Steinman, of Rockefeller University, had died on Friday (Sept. 30).
Steinman died of pancratic cancer at the age of 68, according to McGill University, where he studied.
Because the prize isn't given posthumously, the committee met to determine whether Steinman's award was still valid. After reviewing the original statues of the Nobel Foundation, the committee announced their decision remained. The rules specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize standss.
"The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize," the committee said in a statement.
"The decision to award the Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel Laureate was alive. This was true — though not at the time of the decision — only a day or so previously," the committee said.
The committee ruled the circumstances were similar to the event in which a Nobel Laureate dies before the actual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony (which occurs a few months after the announcement). In this situation, the prize is still presented to the deceased individual.
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