By Rachel Slavik, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — On Monday, a Minneapolis lawmaker will introduce a bill that could answer a recent mystery surrounding Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

So, did the famous baseball player actually have the degenerative nerve disease known as ALS, or did he suffer from another condition caused by several concussions? A New York Times article alluded to that very question this summer.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn will introduce a bill that would allow the release of medical records of patients who’ve been dead at least 50 years, have no descendants or a will that prevents it. If it becomes law, would mean the Mayo Clinic, where Gehrig was treated, could have to give up his medical records.

When State Representative Kahn decided to introduce her most recent legislation, she saw the chance to address an issue much larger than baseball history.

“Public policy, release of medical records,” said Kahn.

It was a New York Times article titled “Study Says Brain Trauma Can Mimic ALS” that peaked this former biology researchers attention. The article cited research from published medical journals and case studies from athletes diagnosed with ALS, including baseball great, Lou Gehrig.

“The thing that sparked it was, when you read the last hospital he was treated at was refusing to release the records,” said Kahn.

The hospital mentioned in the article, The Mayo Clinic. Lou Gehrig had no known descendants, therefore Representative Kahn argues no one could be harmed or embarrassed by releasing the records.

“That just seemed to be an inappropriate degree of secrecy,” she said.

If anything, Rep. Kahn believes the information could help the medical community, if it’s shown Gehrig did not have ALS.

“Lou Gehrig was famous for his continual streak of over 2,000 games. So, this goes to completely counter what the medical treatment of concussions is now,” said Kahn.

It is a bill that could easy be pushed aside in a very busy legislative session.

“Is it as important to the state as solving our budget issue, no,” she said.

But, it also happens to be a bill that has the potential to change, history.

“As long as they’re withholding the records, there’s nothing we can say about it,” said Kahn.

A spokesperson for the Mayo Clinic said privacy of patients and medical records is of primary concern. They are aware of the proposed law that would limit the period of time records would remain private. They are reviewing the bill but at this time have no position.

Comments (17)
  1. old man says:

    another way goverment can get its hands on more infomation about us.I say NO.

  2. I heart English says:

    Rachel Slavik wrote: “…that peaked this former biology researchers attention”. The word you should have used is “piqued”, not “peaked”. the number of spelling and grammar errors at WCCO lately is appalling.

  3. John doe says:

    Glad to see the legislators have nothing else to work on. This is going to create jobs and decrease the deficit how? Medical information should be private for ever!! Stay out of our lives big government!!!

  4. Noel Petit says:

    Lawsuits and more expenses for the medical industry. Thanks Phyllis. Legislators who introduce orphan bills like this should be held personally responsible for their costs.

    1. Tex Womack. says:

      This legislation is ridiculous, but I’m certain the medical industry welcomes any development that gives even the appearance of increased costs they can pass on to patients.

  5. rj says:

    Let Kahn release her records now. She has been on the wrong side of privacy issues for many years.

    1. John doe says:

      I agree! Any elected official should have to put their medical records out for the public to see.

  6. Mr Curious says:

    I’d rather the state of Hawaii release Obama’s birth certificate(the real one). it’s more relevant right now.

    1. Mr Serious. says:

      You’re a fool.

  7. Nancy Aleshire says:

    There are much more important issues to be introduced. I am trying to find legislators willing to introduce legislation mandating cameras in group homes, nursing homes, and facilities that employ those with disabilities. My son died as a result of being restrained in one of these workplaces. If they have cameras in Metro Transit buses and convenience stores why not places to protect whose without a voice.

  8. elaine says:

    I don’t see how release of Gehrig’s medical records would contribute to improving treatment or prevention of ALS. It’s also hard to imagine that 50-year-old medical records relating to any disease or injury would be of significant value in advancing medical science. I guess that leaves “satisfying curiosity” as the reason for wanting disclosure of these medical records and those of others long dead. The number of people whose cause of death 50 or more years ago is in question, and who have no living relatives, and whose will did not reference disclosure of medical records would be – how many? And the legislative resources needed to secure passage (or defeat) of this bill would be – how much? And the cost of administering it if it were to pass would be – what? Can we translate those figures into actual jobs for Minnesotans who are presently out of work?

    1. JD IN ALA says:

      I agree with Kahn to disclose Lou Gerig’s medical records ONLY because the Veterans Administration is studying the ALS right now and estimates that there are THOUSANDS of GI’s who will develop it due to closed head trauma. This is in addition to boxers and football players of all ages.

      1. elaine says:

        The article says that the issue Rep Kahn’s bill seeks to resolve is WHETHER Gehrig’s condition was caused by ALS, OR was the result of closed-head trauma. I have not tracked down and read the NY Times article, so can’t say if it raises the same question. The theory that ALS is CAUSED by closed-head trauma, rather than being a disease process not related to an injury history, is a whole ‘nuther question. Thanks for bringing that to readers’ attention. This article does not present that theory or mention studies regarding it. That sounds like a legitimate scientific endeavor, but again, will one individual’s medical records contribute so much to resolving the question as to justify disclosure, within the limitations of the bill, of anyone’s medical records?

  9. Andy says:

    This is just a way for the government to get at our personal medical records. This bill needs to be stopped and Rep. Kahn needs to mine her own business. Protect your freedom and privacy.

  10. Linda says:

    We can’t paint all the health care providers or the government as evil just because Mayo is reluctant to release the records of one deceased patient. Kahn is wrong in that many former patients in all MN facilities will be affected just because of medical curiousity regarding one sports hero. There are specific state statutes regarding access to patient information. Mayo takes the regulations a step further and has resulted in one of my relatives having additional tests because they wouldn’t forward records to a competing provider for a second opinion.

  11. ron says:

    What a waste of government resources!!!!! Rep. Kahn should be embarrassed.

  12. LASIS_BLOG says:

    New York Law School’s legal reporting blog recently published a piece on the legalities behind this proposed bill to open up medical records:

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