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Mitterrand Knew He Had Cancer Since 1991, Doctor Says

January 17, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ One of Francois Mitterrand’s doctors says the French president demanded his physicians hide from the public to hide the fact that he had cancer, which he knew within months of winning office in 1981.

Dr. Claude Gubler also contended Mitterrand, who died last week at age 79, was no longer capable of carrying out all his duties as president as early as November 1994.

Mitterrand ended his second term in May after holding the office for 14 years, the longest-serving French president this century.

Gubler, who treated the late president from 1969 until 1994, said Mitterrand required daily intravenous treatment since his condition was diagnosed in November 1981.

``In November 1994 I thought that Francois Mitterrand was no longer capable of assuming his duties,″ Gubler wrote in a book co-authored with Michel Gonot, another Mitterrand doctor.

Excerpts of ``The Great Secret,″ due out Thursday, were published Monday by the weekly magazine Paris Match.

Gubler asserted in the book that Mitterrand languished for months at the end of his presidency ``because nothing interested him except his illness.″

But Prime Minister Alain Juppe, who served as foreign affairs minister during the last two years of Mitterrand’s presidency, said Tuesday he ``never found President Mitterrand incapacitated.″

``His pain never prevented him from acting,″ Juppe said.

``President Mitterrand was able, even while under treatment, to fulfill his obligations until the end of his mandate,″ Mitterrand’s former chief of staff, Hubert Vedrine told RTL Radio.

Mitterrand promised before he was first elected to keep the public informed about his health. Demands for more openness followed President Georges Pompidou’s death in 1974 that shocked a nation unaware he had cancer.

But, according to Gubler, Mitterrand not only kept his cancer a secret but ran for a second term knowing he might have little time left to live.

From the first signs of his illness, Mitterrand did everything to hide it, even from his wife, and demanded that his doctors do the same, Gubler wrote.

When he went to a military hospital for diagnostic tests, Mitterrand rode in the doctor’s private car and registered under a false name. His doctors were required to use a pseudonym when speaking about Mitterrand’s illness over the phone, Dr. Gubler wrote.

The book said Mitterrand surprised his doctors by responding well to treatment that his cancer went into remission from 1983 to 1991.

Mitterrand finally told the nation about his illness in September 1992 when he underwent prostate surgery.

Gubler’s revelations drew sharp criticism from Prof. Bernard Glorion, president of the association of French doctors.

``Medical secrecy applies to every doctor, regardless of the status of his patient, and applies even after death. I deeply deplore that Francois Mitterrand’s former personal doctor has not respected this secrecy,″ Glorion told French daily Le Monde.

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