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Did FDR’s Doctors Commit Medical Malpractice?

Posted by Andrew J. Barovick | Jan 05, 2010 | 0 Comments

In today's NY Times there is an intriguing article on the cause of FDR's death–something that has never been clear due to the shroud of secrecy maintained over the health problems of presidents of the time.  The article's author, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman, asks if FDR had a melanoma above his left eyebrow, and if so, did its unchecked progression cause the stroke that ultimately took the 32nd president's life?  Look carefully at the changes in the spot in the photos featured in the article, which show progression of the spot between 1936 and 1939, followed by its absence in 1944.

Among the interesting asides within the article is that at the time (the 1930s and 1940s) doctors “paid far less attention than they do now to moles suspected of being melanomas.”  Maybe so.  But given how long this changing mole was present on the most visible bodily part of a president of the U.S., could F.D.R.'s physicians have been guilty of medical malpractice?

Given the times, that would probably be a stretch.  But Dr. Altman makes an excellent point in closing.

“All presidents and their doctors should make full disclosures about their health.  As long as crucial facts are kept secret, theories, conspiracies and hype may tarnish their image and long outlive them.”

About the Author

Andrew J. Barovick

Mr. Barovick is a graduate of Columbia College and Cardozo School of Law. He began his legal career at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where he tried over 20 felonies to verdict, and argued an equal number of appeals before the Appellate Division, Second Department, the New York Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


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