Frederic Chopin and Michael Jackson: What could they have in common?
Frédéric Chopin et Michael Jackson : qu’ont-ils en commun ?
- S. Erlinger,
- June 25, 2009: death of a KingOne hundred and fifty years after Chopin’s death, another music star dies, with, allegedly, the same hereditary disease. For the hundreds of thousands of fans of Michael Jackson, a dramatic event takes place on June 25, 2009. On that day, the “King of Pop” dies, according to the official report of autopsy, of “acute propofol intoxication”, an anaesthetic agent used by his personal physician to facilitate sleep. This practitioner who injected propofol will have to justify himself before the justice of his country.But, apart from chronic anxiety and sleep problems, vitiligo and other complaints, the pop star might also have suffered from ⍺ 1 -AT deficiency. In December 2008, one can read in the press that Michael Jackson has ⍺ 1 -AT deficiency and that his life expectancy does not exceed a few months . In a biography published soon after his death, the journalist and investigator Ian Halperin (who is at the origin of the rumour diffused by the press in December) alleges again that Jackson has had this disease for several years and was actually on a waiting list for lung transplantation . The author claims that a physician who took care of the respiratory problems of Michael Jackson, and who accepted to answer his questions, confirmed the diagnosis. This allegation raised considerable emotion throughout the world. In fact, there is little evidence to support this hypothesis. Michael had eight brothers and sisters and none is known to have a chronic respiratory disease. The singer displayed considerable energy on stage during his professional career, starting at the age of 11 years, an observation hardly compatible with a long-standing chronic disease. And finally, the autopsy report does not mention any major abnormality either of the bronchopulmonary system or of the liver , the two main targets of ⍺ 1 -AT deficiency.In conclusion, there is convincing evidence, although not conclusive at this time, that one of the greatest composers of the 19th century, Frederic Chopin, suffered from ⍺ 1 -AT deficiency. Many musicologists even argue that this long-lasting and devastating disease, which made Chopin conscious that he would probably not live a long life, probably accounts for the dramatic character of many of his works. In contrast, the allegation that Michael Jackson, one of the most popular artists of the 20th century, also had ⍺ 1 -AT deficiency should at this time be taken with great caution. Recently, a DNA analysis was performed on the mummy of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian pharaoh . Since he died circa 1324 BC, some 34 centuries ago, why not consider performing such an analysis on Chopin’s heart and on Jackson’s tissues taken at autopsy, so that future historians of music have a definite answer to these medical mysteries.