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

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb  on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Category: MLB

Since: Sep 8, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2011 8:20 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

How does it help science to determine whether or nor decades ago Lou Gehrig died of ALS or c oncussion?

Are people with ALS being misdiagnosed with concussions these days or vice versa?

It probably does help ALS research fund raising
that it is reffered to as 'LouGehrig's disease'.

Can someone explain how unsealing the records is more than mere prurienthistorical interest?

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 8:09 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Something to lose? Researching a dead person's medical history is something to lose? So what if he didn't have ALS?

Since: Aug 31, 2009
Posted on: February 8, 2011 7:19 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Great comment about the steroids!

Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2011 6:34 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Unseal obamma's records.

Since: Aug 18, 2008
Posted on: February 8, 2011 3:14 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

to the best of my knowledge this is in TOTAL violation of Federal HIPPA laws.  It should be  totally gotten rid of.  Otherwise, I'm sure Mr. Brunell wouldn't mind having his own personal information thrown out there at the whims of idiots like himself to make any conclusion they wish.
And in regards to his whole "Facebook Era" argument, anything those people on there disclose is VOLUNTARY.  Let's keep that in mind folks.   Does the author or anyone else out there really want every little tidbit of info of their lives to be disclosed to anyone on the planet?  Don't we have enough b.s. to deal with now with made up stories, suppositions, jumped to conclusions from these wannabe writers?  And what about identity theft?  Where is the line drawn on this if they were to pass it?  Let Gehrig and everyone else rest in peace.  If not, well then anyone who passes the law and everyone who starts digging into all this personal info, I hope y'all get haunted mercilessly.  Frown

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2011 3:09 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Why wouldn't 70 year old medical records be allowed to be viewed? Is this really a privacy issue 70 years later? If there is any chance an old medical record could help save one person, or even just further our knowledge about anything it should be a no brainer to look at it. I just don't get most of your mentalities on this board.

There is nothing in his medical record that could tarnish his legacy, no matter what is in there ALS will still be a serious illness and people will treat it as such. No one gets hurt by this record being open.

Since: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:53 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

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!

The public has no need or right to know everything about everyone!  Someone somewhere needs to draw the line to protect what little privacy we have left.

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

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Some of those commenting on this story need to get real! Lou Gehrig was a great ball player, certainly one of the greatest ever. This story isn't about privacy laws, this story also has nothing to do with the current issues with Facebook and their privacy issues. If the Mayo Clinic is soon required to release his information, who does it hurt? It hurts no one. Well who does it help? Just about everyone. The man died at the age of 37, of an illness that few people had ever known, after many, many, many different diagnosis. We can debate the legitimacy of arguments as to whether or not the many concussions Gehrig suffered through his life contributed to his illness and subsequent death. However, the real issue is what these records could help us understand and for medical reasons, helping to fight the illnesses of today, it is useful to look at the past to offer any insight into the when's, what's and why's of not only ALS, but any disease/illness. Nothing in that file will tarnish Gehrig, and from seeing footage of the man and his quick death upon final diagnosis, I have no doubt he did die from ALS, thus ending the debate as to whether or not Lou Gehrig's disease, the name, should be changed. Opening up the past can help change the future, you people shouldn't be so shortsighted.

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2011 1:22 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Sometimes the truth serves no purpose but to destroy what is cherished; there is nothing to gain here, and something great to lose.

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: February 8, 2011 12:21 am

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Considering how Gehrig died (what he went through in his last year, what all ALS victims go through before they finally die), obviously he had ALS.

This is just a publicity stunt, and a stupid one.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or