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A new push in Minnesota to unseal Lou Gehrig’s medical records

Oct 4, 2012, 11:00 AM EST

Gehrig_1

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports this morning on a new effort to unseal Lou Gehrig’s medical records, which are owned by the Mayo Clinic.  State legislators are pushing to make them public in an effort to see if Gehrig’s ALS had any connection with concussions he received during his career.

This has come up before, and the effort was successfully beaten back by privacy advocates. The tack taken by the Mayo Clinic now follows those same lines:

The Mayo Clinic continues to have little comment, stressing that, under law, only the spouse, parents or Gehrig’s appointed representative have access to his medical records. “Patient medical records should remain private even after the patient is deceased,” said Mayo Clinic spokesman Nicholas Hanson. “Mayo Clinic values the privacy of our patients.”

Except the spouse, the parents and anyone else whoever had medical decision making authority for Gehrig have been dead for decades. And while I appreciate that the Mayo Clinic “values the privacy” of its patients, that patient has been dead for 71 years and has no direct descendants. Whose privacy is being protected here?

Fact is, we’ve reached the point where privacy of personal information has become something of a fetish. Sure, you gotta be careful with sensitive stuff which, if made public now, could cause harm, but really, you’d be amazed if you knew how much information is legally available about you right now to almost anyone.

As for Gehrig, if there’s even a moderate chance that old medical records of anyone — famous or otherwise — can help medical researchers today, and if there are no family members with vested privacy interests walking the Earth, I can’t see any reason why these amorphous privacy concerns should rule the day now. And I’m sure wherever Lou Gehrig is right now, he does not care a lick.

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