We all know President Abraham Lincoln was killed by an assassin’s bullet to the back of the head, but do you know the medical speculation surrounding his physical and mental health?
Lincoln was tall, thin, and lanky, with long arms, large hands and feet, and loose joints. His chest was sunken in. Now, one of our greatest presidents may have looked a little strange, towering over his fellow Americans, but some physicians can be downright strange in their obsessive speculations about what caused Lincoln’s unique appearance.
In a 1964 no-longer-available JAMA article, a physician made the case President Lincoln had Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that includes the features above, along with eye and heart defects. Others since have had their own ideas. Some think he may have had a genetic disorder called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B), which causes cancers in thyroid and adrenal glands, along with a Marfan-like external appearance. They cite his asymmetrical face and bumpy lips, along with having three sons who died before age 20 who may have inherited the same disorder.
One-third of his known bloodline relatives have been found to have another inherited disease called spinocerebellar ataxia type 5, which affects coordination, causing an unsteady, clumsy gait. Lincoln was noted to have a clumsy walk.
The 2007 book Lincoln’s Melancholy dissected the president’s lifelong struggle with depression, including his learned coping mechanisms.
So what does this mean today? Seems to me it shows a great man who overcame his disabilities to lead our nation in a time of crisis.
Speculation on his health will continue. Some, including sufferers of Lincoln’s possible diseases, would like to exhume the president’s body for DNA evidence, to find definite answers. They think we might gain insight and dissuade prejudice toward their diseases, along with giving them a role model for motivation. What do you think?
Related Post: “How George Washington’s Doctors Quickened His Death”
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