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Medical Controversies and Dilemmas in Discussions about the Illness and Death of Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889), Romania's National Poet [review]

Raul Neghina, Adriana Maria Neghina
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 26 Number 1: Page 44 (March 2011)

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Abstract: Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889), the first great Romanian poet and a defining figure in Romanian culture, may be situated among the most important romantic bards of his times--Byron, Novalis, Holderlin, Hugo, Lamartine, and Leopardi. He was born to a family affected by tuberculosis and predisposed to mental disorders. Although Eminescu may have suffered from bipolar disorder and may have been killed by iatrogenic mercury poisoning, erysipelas, head trauma, or endocarditis, his final illness and death continue to be associated with the most stigmatized disease of those times, syphilis. This historical review addresses the pros and cons of arguments about the diseases from which Eminescu may have suffered, as well as their causes and consequences. The key question is whether syphilis was the disease that led to Eminescu's death. After reviewing medical hypotheses, we conclude that he suffered from bipolar disorder and died from mercury poisoning, an inadequate treatment administered as the result of an inaccurate diagnosis (syphilis). Hospitalized in inappropriate places and treated by incompetent physicians, he suffered not only physical, but moral, distress and died prematurely. According to a letter he sent to a friend, he rightly considered himself a sacrificed man.

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