So what are the historical medical diagnoses of Abraham Lincoln?
“Over the course of time, an increasing number of conditions and diseases have been attributed to Lincoln, including (alphabetically) aortic regurgitation, ataxia, attention deficit disorder, cancer, cardiac insufficiency, congestive heart failure, crossed eyes, depression, epilepsy, homosexuality, hypogonadism, Marfan syndrome, MEN2B, mercury poisoning, syphilis, thyroid problems and tuberculosis. Obviously, Lincoln could not have had all the diseases alleged and survived to be assassinated,” Schroeder-Lein writes.
Lincoln and Medicine looks at all the possible diseases, but focuses on some of the more popular ones. The most common diagnosis was that Lincoln suffered from Marfan syndrome, a disease which is characterized by especially long and thin limbs, eye trouble and heart problems that typically lead to an early death.
One of the two trendiest accusations is that Lincoln suffered from syphilis, which he supposedly acquired from a prostitute when he was a young man in the 1830s. This idea was proclaimed by Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon, based on no evidence but his own “recollection.” Herndon also advanced the idea to declare that Lincoln gave the disease to his wife Mary, who then passed it on to the children, which is why three of them died so young.
The other trendy topic in recent years is Lincoln’s alleged homosexuality, which Schroeder-Lein shows to be the “highly unlikely” fairy tale that it is.
The newest medical theory on Lincoln was advanced by physician John G. Sotos in his 2008 book The Physical Lincoln, in which he diagnosed Lincoln to have suffered a genetic condition known as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2b (or MEN2B for short). This disease creates certain bodily traits similar to Marfan’s Syndrome (hence the previous Marfan diagnoses), but also includes depression and constipation, which are two issues Lincoln is known to have suffered. Sotos’ real revelation in his theory, however, is that since MEN2B is a form of cancer, Sotos theorizes that Lincoln’s physical deterioration during his years as president shows he was being eaten away by cancer and would have died in 1865 even if he had not been assassinated.