Reporting Rachel Slavik
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.