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: Apr 8, 2010
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:09 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

The logic in this article is so poor it almost makes you wonder if the author is being facetious.  Bizarre.  

Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2011 10:02 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

There was an edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel a few months ago that raised the possibility of head trauma ie. concussions causing brain damage and a leakage of protiens in the brain and spinal cord that may lead to ALS. They have found a coorelation between pro football players. wrestlers etc who have had multiple concussions and no have ALS.  It was revealed that Lou Gehrig did have more than a few concussions.  So , opening his medical records may serve a purpose in future research on ALS

Since: Dec 7, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2011 9:56 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

To point out that this is none of our business does not make one a "privacy hound".

Settling the matter of a rumor isn't a compelling public interest for disregarding the privacy rights traditionally honored for private citizens, nor is "because we REALLY want to know!" a valid reason.  Not even in a society as voyeuristic as ours.

Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2011 9:55 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

This Kahn states it is important to get historical records as accurate as possible?  What record would that be exactly?  Is she looking to change his date of death?  Or is she looking to prove that he really isn't dead after all?  Or does she suspect Gehrig was a murder victim and some fould play was involved in his death?

My opinion is that her "curiosity" has nothing to do with accuracy and is obviously motivated by her personal belief that since she is a legislator that she has a right to do anything she wants for personal pleasure.  Or maybe she's just mad at the Mayo Clinic for denying her request and like a typical power mongering politician, she's "going to show them".

The Mayo Clinic is correct in protecting the privacy of their medical records and it is quite disappointing to hear that an elected official doesn't recognize that.  Whether or not Gehrig has been dead for 50 years is irrelevant.  There is nothing to be gained by her taking his most private and personal information and spewing it all over the internet just because she feels she can.  If Gehrig were the victim of some crime and foul play was suspected, then fine, get a court order and exhume his body and have a team of "qualified" coroners do a proper investigation and they can pass their findings on to the appropriate legal entity.  But Kahn's desire to wield her power as a politician for apparent personal pleasure is just pathetic and is what is most wrong with our government today.

Since: Feb 23, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2011 9:52 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

It's a sad thing that the right to privacy can so easily be questioned in this era.

Since: Nov 10, 2006
Posted on: February 7, 2011 9:50 pm

Gehrig medical records might be unsealed

 I really don't see the value of divulging Lou Gehrig's medical records at this point.  The concussions are new to me.  All the books I have read on the man do not mention this issue.  Most people who died 50 or more years ago would be diagnosed differently today, with the technology available and advances in medical science.  I choose to remember one of the greatest speeches in American history who symbolized what true class and character was.  Let him rest in peace.

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