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

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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.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.