THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 — Paris, France)
The Official Story
Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital is a teaching hospital in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. Part of the Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris and a teaching hospital of Sorbonne University, it is one of Europe’s largest hospitals. It is also France’s largest hospital.
Numerous celebrities have been treated at the Salpêtrière, including Michael Schumacher, Ronaldo, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Alain Delon, Gérard Depardieu, and Valérie Trierweiler. Former president Jacques Chirac had a pacemaker fitted at the Salpêtrière in 2008. Celebrities have also died at the Pitié-Salpêtrière, including the singer Josephine Baker in 1975, following a cerebral haemorrhage; philosopher Michel Foucault (from complications of AIDS) on 25 June 1984; Diana, Princess of Wales following a car crash in 1997; and French bicycle racer Laurent Fignon in 2010 (from the metastatic spread of lung cancer).
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales
Transport to the hospital
The first call to the emergency services’ switchboard was logged at 12.26 a.m. The SAMU ambulance carrying the Princess arrived at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 2.06 a.m. The French system of emergency care adhered to the “stay and play” mantra, which meant that the patient needed to be stabilised first at a fully equipped medical ambulance before being directed to a specialised hospital that could treat his or her injuries, no matter how far away it was. Nevertheless, this length of time has prompted much conspiracy-related comment.
The period between the crash and the arrival at the hospital takes into account the following: the time taken for emergency services to arrive; the time taken by the Sapeurs-Pompiers (fire service) of Paris to remove Diana from the damaged car; and the actual journey time from the crash site to the hospital. Police Officers Sébastien Dorzee and Lino Gagliadorne were the first emergency officials to arrive at the scene at around 12:30 a.m. Sergeants Xavier Gourmelom and Philippe Boyer of the Sapeurs-Pompiers arrived at around 12:32 a.m. Doctor Jean-Marc Martino, a specialist in anaesthetics and intensive care treatment and the doctor in charge of the SAMU ambulance, arrived at around 12:40 a.m. Diana was removed from the car at 1:00 a.m. She then went into cardiac arrest. Following external cardiopulmonary resuscitation, her heart started beating again. She was moved to the SAMU ambulance at 1:18 a.m.
The ambulance departed the crash scene at 1:41 a.m. and arrived at the hospital at 2:06 a.m.—a journey time of approximately 26 minutes. This included a stop at the Gare d’Austerlitz ordered by Dr Martino because of the drop in the blood pressure of the Princess of Wales and the necessity to deal with it. The ambulance was travelling slowly on his express instructions. The doctor was concerned about Diana’s blood pressure and the effects on her medical condition of deceleration and acceleration.
The SAMU ambulance carrying Diana passed the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital on the Ile de la Cité en route to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. The decision to transfer her to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital was taken by Dr Marc Lejay who was on despatch duty in SAMU Control on that night, in consultation with Dr Derossi, who was at the scene. The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital was the main reception centre for multiple trauma patients in Paris. The Hôtel-Dieu was not equipped to deal with the injuries Diana had sustained. Lejay stated: “The Hôtel-Dieu hospital on the ‘Ile de la Cité’ is closer but not equipped with heart surgery teams or neurosurgical teams or teams trained to take patients with multiple injuries.” Lejay was also aware that Professor Bruno Riou was on duty at the Pitié-Salpêtrière that night and was particularly skilled to treat her injuries. Dr Jean-Marc Martino supported this view.
Embalming of the body
Mohamed Al-Fayed alleged that Diana’s body was deliberately embalmed shortly after her death to ensure that any pregnancy test at the post-mortem would produce a false result. Dr. Robert Chapman, who carried out the post-mortem examination, stated that the embalming fluids would have had no effect on determining whether Diana was pregnant or not as the physical evidence would have been present in her womb and ovaries.
Operation Paget found that 31 August 1997 was a very hot day in Paris. Diana’s body had been stored in an empty room adjacent to the emergency room where she had been treated at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, as the mortuary was on the other side of the hospital grounds and some distance away. Dry ice and air conditioning units were placed in the room to keep it cool but appeared to have had little success.
Diana’s two sisters and Prince Charles were scheduled to view the body later that afternoon before bringing it back to the United Kingdom. President Jacques Chirac and his wife also wished to pay their respects. This meant there was very little time to prepare the body for viewing, and it was deemed unacceptable to present Diana’s body to her family and the President of France in the state it was in. Faced with this situation, the hospital staff decided to press ahead with embalming with only verbal authority from Madame Martine Monteil, the local superintendent of police, who assured Jean Monceau “that everything would be in order”. Under French law, paperwork must be completed before undertaking the embalming of any corpse likely to be subject to a post-mortem. This paperwork was completed, but only after the embalming had been carried out, giving rise to allegations of suspicious circumstances. The allegations were made despite there being no way the hospital staff could have known whether or not Diana was pregnant, as a pregnancy test would have been irrelevant to her post crash treatment and accordingly was not carried out.