• U.S.

The Disease J.F.K. Tried to Keep

1 minute read

During the 1960 presidential campaign, rumors surfaced that candidate John F. Kennedy was suffering from Addison’s disease, an incurable, potentially fatal deterioration of the adrenal glands. If true, the information could have influenced the outcome of what ended up being a very tight election. But Kennedy denied it, and the press, as it would later do with other unsavory talk about the Kennedy clan, let the matter rest.

Now an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association has finally set the record straight. According to the author, Journal editor George Lundberg, one of the pathologists who assisted at the President’s 1963 autopsy has confirmed that Kennedy’s adrenal glands, which normally sit atop the kidneys, were nowhere to be found. Lundberg has also confirmed that someone described only as “Case 3 . . . a man 37 years of age,” treated for Addison’s disease in 1954 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, was in fact Kennedy. Although Addison’s is incurable, it is fully treatable, and was in the 1950s. But people are very touchy about the health problems of potential Presidents. If the story had been confirmed 32 years ago, Richard Nixon might have taken office a lot sooner.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com