In Memoriam: Prof. George Litarczek (1925-2019)

In Memoriam: Prof. George Litarczek (1925-2019)

  • issue 77

Gabriel M. Gurman
Chief Editor

This is not a usual obituary. An obituary is supposed to include some of the most important data about that human being whose life has ended and people decided that their memory must be preserved, one way or another, for the generations to come. But regarding the founder of Romanian Anaesthesiology, this would be an impossible task to accomplish.

George Litarczek it is not only the first Romanian anaesthesiologist. During most of his life, 65 years of continuous clinical, didactic, and research activity, he created too many things to be noted in only a couple of sentences. So, I am writing these words not as a biographer, but as a former pupil and a permanent admirer of someone who was the teacher of more than one thousand physicians.

In comparison to many other pioneers in our profession, who started working as anaesthesiologists after trying to become surgeons, Litarczek understood very early the need for a specialist in a domain totally non-existent, not only in Romania, but also in the vast majority of the countries all over the world.

Equally interested in the physiology of the surgical patient and in the battle to alleviate their suffering, in 1950 he performed the first tracheal intubation in Romania and was the first one to use hypothermia and extracorporeal circulation in anaesthesia for cardiac surgery. So he became well-known not only in his own country, but also in many countries in Europe, being invited as a special guest in some university hospitals in Germany, England, France.

Gradually he developed the first education framework for young Romanian physicians who decided to dedicate their career to anaesthesiology. He wrote, among many other things, the first anaesthesia and critical care textbook in Romanian, as early as the end of the sixth decade of the last century.

This is how I ‘met’ him, reading his book before we even met for the first time. We never worked in the same hospital, but he has had a tremendous influence on my entire career, and I was one of the many, many others who got their enthusiasm for the profession from the man who was himself an enthusiastic anaesthesiologist.

Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to meet many true scientists, who through their research activity opened new fields of interest. I also met superb clinicians, who left after them devoted and gifted physicians. I was also lucky enough to know true educators, who knew how to combine theory with practice and thus to influence many young colleagues in their decision regarding the future profession.

George Litarczek was all of the above.

Up to entering his tenth decade of life he was present at all the important scientific events organized in his country and actively contributed to the formation of new generations of professionals.

Mentioning all these many facets of his activity would be enough to convince those who did not know, about the unique qualities of the man who passed away just a couple of weeks ago. But I would be unfaithful to his memory if I would forget to add some sentences about George Litarczek as a man.

His fame, his tremendous scientific and clinical activities, did not affect his modesty. He never spoke about himself. He never criticized his peers, he never answered to those who tried hard to hurt him. He was a philosopher, a thinker, an intellectual, but mainly a man of humanism, of love for the people surrounding him.

Litarczek believed in a Supreme Power. In one of the weekly phone chats we used to have, he told me that there is no other logical explanation for the creation of the human body, other than the existence of a Power who would supervise our life and decide upon every single step we take.

He inherited from his parents, both physicians, the love for the man in sufferance, and paid no attention to money.

For me George Litarczek was a mentor, a guru, a teacher, an example. But above everything, and despite the age gap, he was my friend.

With his disappearance Anaesthesiology lost one of its most prominent representatives, a leader and a man who dedicated all his life to make the world a little better than it was before he showed up.