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Cause of death of president's wife misrepresented or misdiagnosed.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, died of tuberculosis in 1962 at the age of 76. The medical report released to the press identified her illness as asplastic anemia, a degeneration of the tissues. Autopsies revealed, however, that she suffered from widely disseminated tuberculosis.

At the time of her death, several members of Mrs. Roosevelt's family recollected that Eleanor had been infected during her late teens when she was a volunteer social worker among tubercular sufferers in a poor tenement district of New York City.

When she became ill, the young Roosevelt was diagnosed as having "water on the lung," a condition that eventually healed. Attending doctors, at the time, declared that she had contracted a "touch of tuberculosis" but was "cured" in its early stages.

It is now known, however, that the germs of tuberculosis often live on in a dormant state, even though the individual shows no signs of the infection.

Eleanor Roosevelt lived a long and active life thereafter. She gave birth to five children, became a very active aide to her husband throughout his campaigns for governor of New York State and worked vigorously for his election for the United States presidency.

In the seventh decade of her life, however, the president's wife's arthritis developed and White House physicians treated her with cortisone. Consequently, the mild suppression of her immune system by the drug created an opportunity for the dormant tuberculosis bacterium to become active and multiply. This time the body was unable to fight off the resurgence of germs.

Cortisone is one of several drugs that is known to have among its side effects the potential for suppressing the immune system.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Tuberculosis; Eleanor Roosevelt died of complications of tuberculosis that she contracted as a young woman
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1991
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