Stanley Wilks, a 44-year old civilian mathematician with the Army who was purposely paralyzed for 72 days by doctors at George Washington University Hospital so he could conserve energy to fight off pancreatitis, died early of an unrelated illness.
Dr. Glen Geelhoed, one of the doctors who treated him, said Mr. Wilks finally succumbed to a fever that first appeared just as doctors were considering sending Mr. Wilks home from the hospital last April.
Despite using the latest technical equipment, some of which had been developed since Mr. Wilks entered the hospital last November, doctors were never able to pinpoint the source of the fever. An autopsy yesterday revealed that it had come from a small abcess in the lung, according to Dr. Geelhoed.
Mr. Eilks original medical problem had been an inflamation of the pancreas. "That did heal, that was not a problem for him any more, that's why its so tragic and disheartening," the doctor said in referring to Mr. Wilks' death.
Mr. Wilks had been intentionally paralyzed with the drug curare so that his body would slow down and thereby concentrate its energies on fighting off the pancreatitis.
Mr. Wilks' orginal illness drew attention because of enormous cost of his hospitalization. A spokesman for the George Washington University Health Maintenance Organization, which will pay the fees, yesterday estimated the final cost at between $260,000 and $300,000.
Dr. Geelhoed said Mr. Wilks had been making "steady progress" since the time doctors had stopped giving him curare last April. He said the fever would sometimes disappear for days and even weeks, but would come back to sap Mr. Wilks' strength.
Even if doctors had been to discover the source of the fever however, it is not clear that Mr. Wilks could have survived, according to his physicians.
Dr. Allan W. Stone, one of the many doctors who worked with Dr. Geelhoed on the case, said that doctors would probably have continued to treat Mr. Wilks with antibiotics.
"He may have had a problem with his defense mechanisms, and if the defense mechanisms are not working properly, they (the antibiotics) may not cure the infection," said Stone.
"He'd had an up-and-down course with a lot of crisis along the way and I don't think anyone had been really confident that he was going to survive, but we thought he had a fighting chance," added Dr. Stone.
Mr. Wilks was born in London to American parents. His father, Samuel S. Wilks, as a wellknown statistician at Princton University.
In 1954, Mr Wilks earned a bachelor's degree from North Texas State College. Upon graduation he spent a year doing graduate work in mathematics at Cambridge University in England. In 1960, Mr. Wilks received a Master 's degree in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University.
Mr Wilks served with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md. between 1956-1958. He also worked for several years as a systems analyst with the System Development Corporation before returning to the Army. His last position was with the concepts Analysis Agency of the Army in Bethesda.
Surviving are his wife, Jocelyn, of the home in Arlington; three daughters, Elizabeth, Christine, and Victoria, all of the home; ons son, jeffrey, also of the home; and his mother, Jena Orr Wilks, of Princeton, N.J.
The amily requests that the expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the George Washington Unversity Surgical Research Fund.