The death of Rudolph Valentino on August 23d, a few days after he was operated upon for gastric ulcer and appendicitis, gives rise to feelings that become more and more poignant as the published reports are reviewed. Sadness over the untimely taking off in the flower of his young manhood of a player of engaging personality and international popularity, is succeeded by regret, then humiliation, and finally by indignation and wrath that there should be medical men in charge of such cases who are apparently so blind, so prejudiced, so lacking in discrimination, so oblivious of the physiological, limitations and susceptibilities of the human organism, and so negligent of the simplest natural measures for conserving vital energy as the published reports of this and many other cases shown them to be.
Inasmuch, however, as the treatment of Valentino accorded with current practice in such cases, responsibility for his death and the death of many others must be shared by the entire medical body, saving and excepting only the homoeopathic member of it, which they hate and would destroy for its rebellion against and rejection of such therapeutic methods; and saving also those professionally despised independent bodies and “cults” who treat the sick, more or less successfully, without any medication whatever.
Valentinos death vividly recalls the still more poignant case of Caruso, his great compatriot, whose tragical death under very similar treatment a few years ago is still fresh in the public memory.
Both of these men were victims of a cruelly false and pernicious philosophy medical treatment. Their lives were sacrificed on the altar of a false god.
“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” They who are mad are devoid of ordinary reason and judgment, are infatuated, rash, reckless. Was ordinary reason and judgment shown in submitting a man who was debilitated by the strain of the hard work, excitement, emotional stress, late hours, irregular and injudicious dietetic habits incidental to his temperament, vocation and environment to the additional strain and shock of one, (some say two,) of the most serious operations in surgery without a long period of rest and recuperation under the most careful and conservative hygienic and dietetic treatment?.
Valentino appears to have been a man of a highly sensitive, passionate, romantic nature; erotic, emotional and impulsive; enjoying or suffering intensely, physically strong but a spendthrift to energy. He had long been suffering from the pains of gastric and intestinal disturbance, but was too proud to complain. It is reported that when he did mention them to some of his friends, or his manager, he was either laughed at, or told to “go and see a doctor or else shut up and forget it.” Imagine the effect of such flippancy upon one of his temperament. Instead of the sympathy, consideration and sound advice due him, he received ridicule and a rebuff. Young, inexperienced, and lacking knowledge in such matters, the knew nothing better to do than to wallow rebuff and force himself to go as he had been going.
For several weeks before the beginning of the end, Valentino had been undergoing to pangs of anger, humiliation and the desire for vengeance in the painful, if silly, episode which was widely exploited in the newspapers. The vulgar public was regaled with accounts of his challenges to personal combat with the editor who had ridiculed and insulted him, and descriptions of the preparations he was making, or was supposed to be making, to carry out his threats of vengeance and prove his valor.
All very silly and disgusting to sensible, people, of course, but tragical in its physical results for nothing more rapidly and profoundly saps vitality, wastes energy and disturbs normal physiological functions than such indulgence of evil passions.
The facts as reported tend to show that he was already in that irritable, overwrought, weakened condition of the nervous system which portends a breakdown.
He was not himself. He was a sick man. And the things he did, the course he pursued, in the absence, probably, of sound and kindly advice, constantly aggravated and hastened the further progress of his disease.
When the breakdown came and Valentino fell into the hands of the doctors, were these elements and particularly the psychic factors of the case taken into consideration? Presumably his clinical history was taken and routine laboratory tests were made. Modern hospital records provide for that. But was a thorough, painstaking investigation and analysis of his temperament of constitution made, including his mental or psychical characteristics and experiences, in order to discover the extent and degree to which his physical condition had been influenced by these important factors?.