I received 2 emails in March:
30 March 2007 17:49:12
Francis RIGONI is dead. He chose to die in Switzerland, through euthanasia. Before this deadly gesture, he explained his decision during an interview recorded on the radio station France Culture’.
Some 6 or 7 years ago, the editor of my Neurosurgery Manual asked me if he could give my contacts to someone who wanted to share his experience with a terrible disease, syringomyelia with Arnold Chiari malformation. I off course accepted and got into contact with Francis RIGONI. Our paths met through email correspondences which at first were professional but later became very friendly. He shared with me his anger to crush this so-called orphan’ disease. He made his choice consciously. In spite of the fatal outcome, this usual and at the same time unusual relationship between a patient and a neurosurgeon is challenging and needs to be followed by a message of hope from us, care-givers.
Francis RIGONI suffered for almost 50 years from this undoubtedly progressing disease. Many attempts at treatment failed and his invalidity was worsening. He was a chronic sufferer: physically, psychologically and socially.
This death has had an impact on me and without getting into the basis of active euthanasia which has given rise to a legitimate and passionate debate; it has rekindled the sense of failure in me. We have often had this sentiment in our different specialties that deal with nervous system conditions given that therapeutic impossibilities are not exceptional. During the practice of our disciplines, the runaway attitude that we adopt when faced with difficult cases’, sometimes reaching cynicism, comes from an attitude of resistance to professional and emotional aggressions, and in fact reveals a posture that will lead to a jump, an assault against an enemy that has kept us company since we were conceived: death. I have always lived through this job as if it were a struggle, a fight with a seemingly unconquerable and inaccessible enemy. We have had defeats, but we do have a positive balance since history shows that human lifespan is increasing and many diseases have disappeared as a result of our victories. The battle continues!
These few words are dedicated to Francis who was bitter and very critical on medicine and physicians. Just to tell him that this defeat of our Art can be considered as that of a battle. But the war continues and numerous are the soldiers – physicians and paramedical personnel – who are fighting to preserve and prolong Life, taking into consideration its quality. It has been so, it is so and ever so shall be…, knowing that the quest for immortality raises quite another issue.