Mozart, Too?

While surfing the web to determine if there were any new developements in the treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease, I found some old news today – old news that struck a chord with me (pun absolutely intended).  I was on the following website:  They sell genetic decoding, which is in itself an intriguing idea, but I am not endorsing them.  I did notice a line on the site that mentioned they were not approved by the FDA, but were a private lab. I know nothing more about them except that this bit was included on their site.


Did Mozart die of Kidney Disease?

The famous Austrian composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born in 1756), had a short but prolific career before he died on December 5th, 1791, only 35 years old. The circumstances of his death have long been a matter of speculation among musical historians and medical scientists alike. Theories on the cause of his premature death range from infections and head trauma to poisoning and even murder.

According to various reliable sources, Mozart fell seriously ill in September of the year of his death. In spite of his illness, he was initially able to continue working, and conducted the premiere of his famous Opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), in Vienna on September 30th, 1791. His illness gradually intensified and in late November Mozart became bedridden, suffering from severe symptoms such as swelling, pain, and vomiting, seen in the advanced stages of Chronic Kidney Disease. Mozart died in Vienna on December 5th, 1791.

According to an article by Dr. E.N. Guillery, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in 1992, kidney failure is indeed one of many theories of Mozart´s terminal illness. In a letter by Mozart´s sister-in-law, who was present during the illness leading to his death, she described that Mozart was unable to turn in bed on account of his swollen condition and that he described having “already the taste of death” on his tongue. This, according to Dr. Guillery, may have been the foul taste of uremia, or the buildup of waste in the blood due to kidney failure. Dr. Guillery´s conclusion however, is that unless further information comes to light, the cause of Mozart´s death will remain a mystery.

I researched Dr. Guillery’s (a pediatric nephrologist) article and, while I’m not certain I understood all of it since it was so technical, decided the conclusion could be earily understood by those of us who are not doctors or scientists. I’ve added some information of my own in brackets to make this a bit more clear.


There are very few conclusions that can be drawn from this debate. It seems quite possible that Mozart died in renal failure, the “taste of death” he complained of may have been the foul taste of uremia. The presence of edema suggests nephrotic syndrome which makes a glomerulopathy likely, or volume overload from renal insufficiency. Karhausen’s [e.g.from his article “LR: Mozart in person.” Times Liter Suppl 1990;Dec:21-27, 2 1] inclination to propose a relatively common renal disorder associated with Mozart’s well-described ear anomaly seems reasonable. Vesicoureteral reflux [e.g.  the abnormal flow of urine from the bladder back into the ureters, usually diagnosed in childhood or infancy] in association with a urinary tract anomaly could have caused nephrotic syndrome. Rheumatic fever and SBE [e.g. subacute bacterial endocarditis] cannot be ruled out and are favored by some. We cannot know what killed Mozart unless significant new information comes to light which is unlikely.  One should be gratified that Mozart’s music lives on.on comes to light, which is

I’m not sure if I’m honored to possibility share my disease with Mozart of distressed that he suffered without the help we have today.  I’ll keep pondering that.

Until Tuesday,

Keep living your life (and perhaps pondering this yourself)



Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

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