Friday, December 09, 2011

National Multiple Sclerosis Act of 1949

“But to watch someone close to you become a hopeless, helpless paralytic and to know that medical science is powerless to halt the progress of this disease, is something no person should be called upon to endure” 

“May 11, 1949 Washington DC – Mrs. Lou Gehrig, blue eyed widow of baseball’s “iron horse” urged Congress yesterday to finance a campaign against Multiple Sclerosis which cut down her husband at the peak of his fame.

Several victims of the crippling malady sat in wheelchairs listening …”

Republican Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire, whose daughter had MS, sponsored the bill. Tobey declared, “We cannot take this thing laying down. There is enough money in this country to take care of this job. … God will hold us responsible unless we try to do something for them.” Emerging Illnesses and Society: Negotiating the Public Health Agenda” by Randall M. Packard 

National Institutes of Health (NIH) opposed the formation of a separate institute for MS and the legislation never passed. Instead the idea was folded into a then unfunded directive to the Surgeon General to set up a National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Blindness and the National Institute for Rheumatism and Metabolic Diseases.  

It’s interesting that media reporting of 62 years ago interchanges MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) especially since ALS would become known colloquially as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’. Then again public awareness remains a problem.

Most of all I am struck by the loss of moral imperative in approaching disease. Then a nation that not only believed “in God we trust’ but “God will hold us responsible unless we try …”

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. Very interesting about Mrs. Gehrig and the bill that never passed. It is sad. Whatever the debilitating disease, whether it be MS or AML, something needs to be done to help the patient and the family as they sadly journey through the disease process. Compassion and kindness in provision of resources and benefits available is something I think God would hold us accountable for indeed.


  2. Most of all I am struck by the loss of moral imperative<<<I could put this starter part of the sentence on too many things...

  3. Oh yes, Mary and Betty, that moral compass sure has stopped pointing in the right direction.

  4. Moral imperative? Isn't that the new reality show on Thursdays?


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