What did Sun Yat-sen really die of? A re-assessment of his illness and the cause of his death

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Abstract

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sun Yat-sen (November 12, 1866) and the 91st year following his death (March 12, 1925). It generally has been believed that the cause of his death was "liver cancer." However, as indicated in the official autopsy report, dated March 13, 1925, of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH) in Beijing, the cause of his death in reality was an adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder with direct extension to the liver and diaphragm as well as widespread metastases to the peritoneal cavity. This important piece of information seems to have never been reported in the English language literature, and it was only in 2013 that the true cause of his death was stated in a one-line sentence in a non-medical Chinese online source. It had been mistakenly believed that the cause of Dr. Sun's death was liver cancer, based on the observations made following an exploratory laparotomy, which had been performed at PUMCH on January 26, 1925. The purpose of this short report is to provide more details relating to his terminal illness and to correct the historical record for a medical audience as to the cause of the death of Sun Yat-sen, a very important figure in the history of 20th century China.

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Barth, R. F., & Chen, J. (2016). What did Sun Yat-sen really die of? A re-assessment of his illness and the cause of his death. Chinese Journal of Cancer, 35(1), 81. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40880-016-0144-9

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