Tragic story of Jean-Pierre Adams, who has died at 73 after being in a coma for 39 years following a failed knee surgery

IT was meant to be a routine surgery.

A minor knee operation, that would've left ex-footballer Jean-Pierre Adams out of action for a few months.

However, a near lethal dose of anaesthetic before the procedure left the former French international in a coma.

Some 39 years later, the defender who was in a long vegetative state, has passed away at the age of 73.


Born in Dakar, Senegal in 1948, Adams moved to France aged ten and began his professional football career with Nimes in the 1970s.

Before that he was hardened in the world of the non-league game, juggling a job working for a local rubber manufacturer, until scouts decided he was worth gambling on.

Within a few seasons, Adams was a first team regular in the Gard helping his side challenge for the league title.

Between 1972-73, the Crocodiles finished second in the First Division and reached the Coupe de France semi-finals – in what was a golden era for the club.

Adams, christened 'The Black Rock', earned his first France call-up in 1972 and was sold to OGC Nice ahead of the 1973-74 season.

The 5ft 10in centre half would spend four years on the Cote d'Azur and play 144 games for the team.


During his career, Adams would earn 22 caps for Les Bleus.

He was regularly paired with French legend Marius Tresor between 1972-76.

France's Romanian manager at the time Stefan Kovacs nicknamed the partnership 'The Black Guard', after an impressive display shutting out a strong Poland side.

However, despite their defensive prowess this French side wasn't as good going forward.

It was a period of disenchantment for the national team, who failed to qualify for the European Championships in 1976.

That year saw Adams' last appearance for his country – in a friendly against Denmark.


At 29, Adams signed his last big contract in football with PSG.

In two years in the French capital, he appeared 42 times, scoring twice, and cemented his name as one of the most important players in the club's first decade of existence.

His ability was praised by international team-mates, including iconic midfielder Henri Michel.

Michel described Adams as a 'force of nature, very strong, full of good will and determination' to Paris United.

After a brief spell at Division 2 side Mulhouse, he would end his career with amateurs FC Chalon at 33 playing with Polish striker Josef Klose, the father of German legend Miroslav.


Following a ligament rupture injury, Adams checked into the Édouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon in 1982.

He was booked in for a routine surgery and expected to leave hospital in the following days.

However, it all went tragically wrong when an anaesthetist made a near-fatal error and gave Adams the wrong dose ahead of the op.

The healthy athlete suffered a bronchospasm, which starved his brain of oxygen.

His wife Bernadette Adams spoke to CNN about the time her husband went in for the knee surgery.

She said: "The female anesthetist was looking after eight patients, one after the other, like an assembly line.

"Jean-Pierre was supervised by a trainee, who was repeating a year, who later admitted in court: 'I was not up to the task I was entrusted with'.

'"Given it was not a vital operation, that the hospital was on strike, they were missing doctors and this woman was looking after eight patients, in two different rooms, someone should have called me to say they were going to delay the operation."

In the 1990s, a court ruled that both the anaesthetist and trainee were given one-month suspended sentences, as well as a hefty fine.


Bernadette and their two sons, Laurent and Frederic kept vigil at Adams' bedside before his death.

Although Jean-Pierre was unable to communicate and express emotion, he was still able to breathe, feel, eat and cough without the aid of medical equipment and lived at home near Nimes.

His plight caused many to questions whether he should have been kept in a vegetative state for 39 years.

"People on Facebook say he should be unplugged… But he is not plugged! I just don’t have the courage to stop giving him food and water," Bernadette once revealed.

"He has a normal routine. He wakes up at 7, eats… He may be in a vegetative state, but he can hear and sit in a wheelchair."


The suggestion of putting her husband's suffering to an end was not one Bernadette entertained.

She is against euthanasia and refused to give up on Jean-Pierre until his last moments.

But her stance wasn't one that former defensive partner Tresor agreed with. According to Paris United, Tresor never found the courage to visit his former team-mate since the awful incident.

He said: “Even if Jean-Pierre woke up, he would not recognise anybody. So is it worth living like this?

"If a similar thing happened to me, I told my wife not to keep me here."

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