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: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 11:11 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Would the release of these records actually serve the public good?  Is it better for those with ALS to not have Lou Gehrig as the name people use to fund raise for a cure.  I think the records should stay sealed, Lou Gehrig appeared to be a man of great dignity and this part of his history should stay private.

Since: May 26, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:56 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Um, don't really agree. The New Yorker has focused on the ramifications of concussions, also, at least twice in the last year. One of the thrusts of the articles is how repeated, but not MAJOR concussions ... but many, LESSER ones ... can affect the football athletes who are the MOST-subjected to this part of the game. So, if Gehrig indeed died from not the more-famous source, but one that's only now being more-fully investigated, then why not go further?

Since: Aug 26, 2006
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:41 pm

Gehrig will be proven as original user of PED's

Congress also wants his records unsealed to prove the Iron Horse's rampant steroid use. Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra and the Babe used to be juicers. This needs to be investigated.

Since: Mar 26, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:39 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Excellent point Teton.  The public has no right to know what killed someone 50 years ago if someone from the family is not able to approve the release of the information.  This is a personal matter and unless you have 100% approval to share this information from that person or his / her family, it should stay sealed.  I'm sure Minnesota govenmental officals have more pressing issues that need their attention other than looking to unveil 50-year old medical records.

Since: Apr 2, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:38 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

The Mayo Clinic should not do this.

First off, he's been dead since well before most every living American was born.  He was not poisoned.  He was not strangled.  He was not drowned or crushed or in any way murdered.  What the hell does it matter now?

Secondly, we would no longer hear "Lou Gehrig's Disease".  Nobody knows what ALS is.  But a lot of people know what Lou Gehrig's Disease is.  Or don't we?  

Did Tommy John have "Tommy John Surgery"

If Indians actually live on the Indian SubContinent, who's taking my money at the casino? 

What the hell am I ever going to believe?

The New York Giants play home games in New Jersey?

Since: Jan 11, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:21 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

And *surprise...ouch, I actually proofread when I worked there, seriously.

Since: Jan 11, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:20 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

*believe....I hate typos

Since: Jan 11, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:19 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

As somone who worked at the Minnesota legislature for 2 years, beleive me that it is no surpise good ole' Phyllis Kahn proposed this legislation. She's been a state rep for 26+ years and is extremely animated and entertaining, but perhaps going a little senile.

Since: Jan 28, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:16 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Way to editorialize at the end there. So what if it comes back that Lou Gehrig didn't have Lou Gehrig's Disease? Now what?

Since: Feb 23, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:13 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

Sorry to disagree with you 66, but what if the records do nothing but reveal that he had syphylis (insert publicly innaproppriate disease or ailment here)?  His records, my records, Obama's records, your records, etc. should not be revealed.  Read the constitution.  So many have been trampled for the supposed "public right to know".

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