'Gehrig bill' would free Yankee star's medical data for ALS-concussion probe

I’ve blogged a number of times about the privacy rights of the dead and efforts to limit such rights, including on the federal level.  Here’s another news story about one very specific bill being proposed in Minnesota:

David Brauer reports:

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn makes no bones about it: She wants the Mayo Clinic to release New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig’s medical records. Monday, she will introduce a bill permitting just that.

This summer, the New York Times published a provocative story suggesting “Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease” (also known as ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). The theory is that Gehrig’s many concussions caused a similar but different fatal disease.

While medical-media critics had issues with the Times’ linkage, the story captivated Kahn, a Minneapolis DFLer, biology researcher, and unabashed hardball fan. The piece noted that the Mayo Clinic, which treated Gehrig, would not release his records, and forbade a doctor who examined them from being interviewed.

I fully appreciate the curiosity about this case. I also recognize that some medical benefit might derive from it. But is that enough to justify invading Gehrig’s medical privacy?

Suppose that it turned out his death was not due to ALS but to concussions. How would that alter his public image and perceptions of his now-famous farewell speech? Would he want this information public? Does it affect any right to publicity he or his estate might have?

Read more on MinnPost.com. And for those of you who may never have seen what was one of the emotional moments in the history of baseball, you can see it below:

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  1. Anonymous - February 7, 2011

    AMEN! Let the sleeping keep their secrets. It doesn’t further science nor provide any significant information. Let the families move forward in peace and if the disease is misnamed, it was named for a heroic man. That’s all that counts. We know it as ALS officially. Just have scientists use that term.

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