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Rene Favaloro: 1923-2000: Heart Surgeon

Clinic Struggled With Financial Difficulty

Argentina has struggled with financial depression since the 1990s when, like many other Latin American countries, it instituted free-market reforms. Millions of Argentines lost their health-care coverage while the government slashed subsidies to Favaloro's clinic. The Favaloro Foundation was often the only hope for chronic patients, and the doctor refused to turn away those who could not pay. After years of championing the cause of universal health care, Favaloro was growing distraught. According to the national newspaper La Nacion, as quoted by the Guardian, the Favaloro Foundation was reportedly owed $18 million by state-owned medical centers and hospitals. His dream was on the brink of financial ruin. He pled for help from the government and private investors to no avail. Accord-ingtothe Seattle Times he wrote in a letter to a friend, "I am going through one of the worst moments of my life. I have become a servant knocking on doors looking for money to keep the foundation alive."

Favaloro died July 29, 2000, at age 77. He was found by his secretary in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. From the gunshot wound to his chest, the gun lying nearby, and letters of farewell found in the apartment, police attributed the death to suicide. Favaloro's wife, Maria, had died in 1998. Though they had no children of their own, they raised four children of one of Favaloro's brothers, who died young. Argentine President Fernando de la Rúa, acknowledged Favaloro's "deep love and attachment to his country," according to the Lancet, and declared July 31 a day of national mourning.

Favaloro was honored in Europe for his work just weeks before his death. He attended the opening of the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris on June 26 and 27, 2000. While there, he confided his troubles to fellow Argentine heart surgeon Juan Carlos Chachques, who is director of the Paris hospital. "I have no doubt that this tragedy is a direct consequence of the financial situation in which Argentina's health system is embroiled, Chachques is quoted as saying in Lancet. "Dr. Favaloro faced the appalling prospect that everything he had worked to achieve … was on the point of disintegration."

Selected writings

Surgical Treatment of Arteriosclerosis, (study) 1970.

The Challenging Dream of Heart Surgery: From The Pampas to Cleveland, (autobiography) 1994.


Guardian (London, England), August 3, 2000, p. 22.

Lancet, August 5, 2000, p. 492.

Seattle Times, August 27, 2000, p. A25.

Times (London, England), July 31, 2000, p. 19.

—Brenna Sanchez

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother to Francisco Franco (1892–1975) BiographyRene Favaloro: 1923-2000: Heart Surgeon Biography - Interest In Medicine Began Early, Returned To Argentina, Clinic Struggled With Financial Difficulty