Blog Entry

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Posted on: February 7, 2011 8:22 pm

GehrigIn August, the New York Times published an article contending that it's possible the disease named after Lou Gehrig was not responsible for his demise.

It has long been thought that Gehrig suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS. However, the Times contends that it is possible Gehrig's multiple concussions gave way to a similar disease to ALS.

Unfortunately, this has all been mere speculation due to the Mayo Clinic's refusal to release Gehrig's records. That's where Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn comes in, as the Minnesota Post writes. Kahn introduced a bill Monday that would allow the clinic to release the Yankee great's records. Currently, they are refusing to release the records and forbid a doctor who examined the records to be interviewed. It is unknown why the Mayo Clinic refused access, but it is possible they based it on a lack of patient consent.

However, this bill would allow a release of medical records provided 50 years have passed. This bill would come on top of the federal government's recent decree of consent-exemption rules, which read in part:


[A]rchivists, biographers and historians have expressed frustration regarding the lack of access to ancient or old records … even when there are likely few remaining individuals concerned with the privacy of such information. …

We believe fifty years is an appropriate time span because by approximately covering the span of two generations we believe it will both protect the privacy interests of most, if not all, living relatives … and it reflects the difficulty of obtaining authorizations from personal representatives as time passes.


For the records to remain sealed if the bill passes, a direct descendant of Gehrig would have to object (he did not have any children) or if a "heath directive prevents it." However, the Mayo Clinic would still be able to refuse to release the records.

Kahn admits part of the motivation is her curiosity on what really happened to a legend like Gehrig, but also insists this is part of a larger public-policy initiative and believes that any discussion of concussions is a good thing.

"I’m a scientist; I like accuracy, and this is about disclosure with proper protection," she said. "The mystery makes this interesting, but if the records come out and don’t show anything, so be it."

The privacy hounds out there are having a field day with this issue, but it's hard to imagine why. In this Facebook era, privacy is of paramount importance, but we're talking about a public figure dead for over 50 years. As the wording of the consent-exception rules read, "there are likely few remaining individuals concerned with the privacy of such information."

Isn't it important to get our historical records as accurate as possible? There is little to no value to keep this type of information private.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB

Since: Jan 11, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2011 9:03 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Weezer953: As someone who grew up in Rochester, MN and whose parents still live there (my dad is a doctor of course ;), you couldn't have said it any better. Yeah, Minnesota is in good shape with the healthiest people and some of the smartest students in the nation (along with low unemployment, comparatively). It is nice to be able to take time to deal with a little more trivial issues and Maddog's sarcasm is lost on our great state.

Since: Feb 8, 2011
Posted on: February 8, 2011 8:58 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Or is it more important to preserve "history" and one of the most iconic and respected sports or, more importantly, human heroes...more like there is little to NO value to make this information public!!

Since: May 9, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2011 6:13 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Ok mf10018, let me bask in your great knowledge, oh mighty one.  Wow you know about HIPAA privacy law.  Let me stand up and give you a round of applause.  Go grab a tissue.  I never stated anything negative about ALS, i really hope your wife puts up with your lameness.  Good god.  This is a sports blog you nitwit not a medical forum.

Since: Jun 24, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 4:40 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Maddog3584 said:

It's great to see that the state of Minnesota is in such good shape that 50 year old medical records are the most important thing on the agenda.  There is no unemployment or crime to worry about, what a beautiful position to be in!

I have to agree with you Maddog, it certainly is nice to have a clean state with healthy people.  As a resident of Rochester, Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic) I can definitely say we are blessed with a city that has suffered minimal effects of the recession.  Sure housing prices across the city and state may be down...but then again that's happening everywhere.  Minneapolis still seems to be doing fine and the metro area in general isn't too fact employment is picking up again up there.  Additionally our crime rates still seem to be pretty low.  I realize you're being sarcastic...but I don't understand what purpose your random pot-shot against Minnesota and its legislators serves.  And your strange comment about the government/public not needing to know "everything about everyone" certainly doesn't apply.  It's not a difficult situation, honestly: Mayo wants to protect the privacy of one of its patients ("the patients needs come first" is the Mayo Clinic's motto) while certain segments of researchers would like to have access to Lou Gehrig's records to better understand ALS and other information surrounding Lou Gehrig's strange and untimely death.  Ultimately the state legislators will end up deciding whether or not releasing Lou Gehrig's records is in the public's interest.  I have no problem with a state representative putting forth this kind of fact that is EXACTLY the point of representative government: to make and shape policy for the best results for its constituents.

I'm sorry to everyone else for the long winded retort...but I just don't understand this person's strange comments.  But are welcome to Minnesota anytime you'd like, though I definitely recommend the summer months.

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:48 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

These are medical records, not some immense privacy issue which would taint the Lou's life/legacy in some way.  Why even have those medical records still around?  Wouldn't a law exist in order to destroy the records to long dead clients/patients in the first place?  As this point has not even been remotely whined about by the public for several decades on end, their really shouldn't be a problem to anyone. 

If that law did exist we wouldn't have people making this into some type of personal attack on their long dead privacy after they are already dead.  When you are dead you lose lots of those articial human made rights kids.

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:22 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Yes, WindyCityDante, Discovering the causes of an illness such as ALS is exactly the same as uncovering multiple murders or the proof of alien life! Maybe you should think before you spout off on whatever floats through your head at any given moment. To think that Lou Gehrig's medical files and JFK's Warren Commission files are the same thing, must mean that you are a poorly educated individual...I hope your wife/future wife will be a genius, because that's the only thing that should enable you to procreate.

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:14 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

If you think science and hospital care are the same today than it was in 1939, GrandSlamPok, then you need to go back to where you received your education, and get a refund. His medical records will divulge everything from blood work to x-rays, all of which can lead to proper diagnosis in today's world. ALS hasn't been directly linked with concussions, it's more of a theory. But the overall goal is to rid the planet of ALS. Most people who are familiar with science and the like would agree that when looking to cure the illnesses of today, it is best to look into history for any clues. People who donate to ALS charity's know what ALS is, people who've had family touched by the illness knows what ALS is, those who know of Lou Gehrig knows what ALS is. If you look at all of the signs, Lou died because of ALS, and if your biggest concern about unsealing these records is because they might have to change the name of it, then you must be an idiot!

Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:04 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

There should be a statute of limitations on the HIPPA laws. The man has been dead for almost 70 years! They won't be "disturbing" Lou and there is no spirtuallity in science. If a crime is committed in today's society, all information about the individuals involved gets handed over to the courts. If Gehrig had living offspring present this would be a non-issue. I believe they would have unsealed it to know exactly what Lou had and how it contributed to his death. Whatever his records say, it could help science further understand ALS. There is no such thing as hauntings either, keep you fear based views to yourself. No need to make everyone here believe that you're crazy!

Since: May 9, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2011 10:43 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

As long as we're "unsealing" documents for no reason at all why dont we unseal who really shot JFK and where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  Hell, lets find out what happened in Area 51 too while were at it.  The guys been dead for over 50 years, let it go.

Since: Jul 17, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2011 9:26 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Go are right on. I think my family would want to know exactly what caused my young death. For future purposes. When you go to the doctors and look up your bio. They already know your history and this helps them diagnose a problem that might be related. In your bloodlines. People get a grip and let the right thing be done. His legacy will never be tarnished and his good name will forever be linked to Lou gehrigs disease.

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