Reviews Book

When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 02 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:975
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist (
  1. New York

    The most famous celebrity patient of recent years is Lance Armstrong, who survived advanced testicular cancer, returned to cycling, and won the Tour de France seven times. He also became an activist, formed a foundation, spoke widely about the disease, and published a bestselling book about his experience.

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    Barron H Lerner

    Johns Hopkins University Press, $25, pp 352 ISBN 0 8018 8462 4

    Rating: GraphicGraphicGraphicGraphic

    But the first celebrity patient, says Dr Barron Lerner, was Lou Gehrig, the famous American baseball player, who became ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—still known in the United States as “Lou Gehrig's disease”—in 1938 and died in 1941. Gehrig was a star hitter for the New York Yankees, a tall, strong, shy man nicknamed “the Iron Horse” for his endurance.

    During the summer of 1938, he was in a slump, but played better toward the end of the …

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