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Dr. Jean A. Bernard, 98, Dies; Found Cancer in Shah of Iran
By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
Dr. Jean A. Bernard, a pioneering French hematologist who diagnosed the cancer that the shah of Iran kept secret for many years, and that ultimately sent him to an American hospital in a chain of events that led to the Tehran hostage crisis of 1979-81, died at his home in Paris on April 17. He was 98.
Dr. Bernard was a member of the French Academy, which announced his death.
As a prominent doctor whose name is attached to a children's bleeding disorder, Dr. Bernard occasionally consulted on patients who demanded anonymity and secrecy.
He did not know who the patient would be when a trainee of his, practicing in Iran, asked him to come to Tehran urgently in 1974. Dr. Bernard took another trainee, Dr. Georges Flandrin. The patient was Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was bothered by an enlarged spleen.
From a bone marrow test, the doctors diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, a blood condition. But the shah refused to have more thorough testing because he did not want others to know of his ailment.
On a follow-up visit in 1974, the French doctors recommended that the shah start taking an anticancer drug, chlormabucil. But when they examined him again in 1975 in Switzerland, they learned that he was not taking the drug as prescribed.
The shah was deposed in the Iranian revolution of 1978 and fled to Mexico. When his cancer worsened in 1979, President Jimmy Carter allowed him to enter the United States for treatment at New York Hospital in Manhattan. A few days later, a group of Iranians seized the American Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 staff members hostage for more than 14 months, until January 1981.
The shah died in 1980 after being treated by medical teams as he wandered the world for treatment of his cancer and its complications.
Jean Alfred Bernard was born in Paris on May 26, 1907. In 1940, he joined the French Resistance. He was caught and imprisoned until the end of World War II.
In 1947, he and Dr. Marcel Bessis developed exchange blood transfusion as a therapy for childhood leukemia. The transfusions induced what is believed to have been the first temporary remission of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, Prof. Jacques-Louis Binet, a hematologist and secretary of the French Academy of Medicine, said last week. In 1948, Dr. Bernard and Dr. Jean-Pierre Soulier described a hereditary syndrome that does not allow platelets to stick to blood vessels and form clots. It leads to bleeding in children and is now known as the Bernard-Soulier syndrome.
"Our country has lost a great doctor and a pioneering spirit," President Jacques Chirac of France wrote to Dr. Bernard's family.
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Some of the information/pictures have been taken from Hello Magazine