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Abe Lincoln Would Want DNA Test To Confirm Cancer Question

April 21, 2009

Readers might know that I have great interest in, and a deep respect for, Abraham Lincoln.  As a history buff I read lots about his life, and the times in which he lived.  The latest ideas and discussion about the person I argue to be the most significant leader in our national past has created yet another stir with the latest news about his medical condition.

Did Abe Lincoln have cancer?  And should we use modern methods to determine the answer to that question?

The controversy surrounds a theory by John Sotos that Lincoln had a rare genetic disorder that would have left him dead of cancer in a short period of time, regardless of the assassination.  Sotos is seeking to have a bloodstained pillowcase from a museum tested for Lincoln’s DNA to better illuminate this issue.  The pillowcase was the one that Lincoln’s head rested on after he was shot.  But there are some who feel this DNA test is morally and ethically wrong.

Since reading about this matter in the Wall Street Journal recently I have thought about the merits of undertaking the test so to better understand more fully what was happening to Abe Lincoln.  I have also weighed the dilemma of leaving his personal medical matters a secret.  I can make great arguments for each, and I think most of my readers can make their own points for each path. 

As one who loves to read and understand history I think we should be allowed as a country to test the pillowcase for DNA matter.   If it sheds medical information that then can be placed in a broader context we might better understand the mind and actions of  President Lincoln during the stressful period of the Civil War.  There will be plenty of analysis and writing to add yet another layer of texture to the most inspiring of men to sit in the White House.

Abe Lincoln would have thought this test worthy of examination.  After all, Lincoln had a curious mind, and though limited education as a young person, he made efforts to advance his understanding of the world and countless issues as he matured.  I think he would be curious enough, if he had the ability, to have the test conducted.

There is never a good enough reason to stop the advancement of our understanding of any issue.  I hold to the notion that when one steps out into the national arena of politics there is an unwritten agreement that one’s life is then public, and open to inspection.  There are ground rules to be sure, but after 144 years since the passing of a president even those ground rules give way to the needs of history.

One Comment
  1. mac2500 permalink
    April 21, 2009 3:29 PM

    sotos has a website and it lists interesting historical questions and answers that the dna testing could give. i agree that lincoln would want the test but for a different reason. supposedly three of his sons died from the same problem and i think lincoln would want to know about that.

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