Kennedy's Addisonism was diagnosed in 1947 by a physician in London. Kennedy had probably been
suffering (literally) from the disease for years, if not decades. After the diagnosis, he was
given less than a year to live. He was so ill during the sea voyage home from England, in October
1947, that he was given the last rites
Yet, during the 1960 presidential race, the JFK campaign flatly denied that JFK had Addison
disease. The Kennedy campaign used a very narrow definition of Addision disease, namely, insufficiency
of the adrenal glands caused by tuberculosis. This was deliberate, calculated, and grossly
misleading. Bumgarner calls it "undoubtedly one of the most cleverly laid smoke screens
ever put down around a politician"
Adrenal insufficiency, no matter how caused, is a serious matter.
Dallek reports that "Doctors who treated Jack's Addison's or read closely about his
condition have concluded that he had a secondary form of the disease, or a 'slow atrophy of
of the adrenal glands,' rather than a rapid primary destruction"
Dallek is hinting that Kennedy's Addisonism was due to chronic use of steroids, but he does
not take a stand.
While a U.S. Senator, Kennedy underwent major surgery on his back even though the effects
of Addison disease on
the tolerance of surgery was largely unknown at the time.
In fact, JFK's case was published in the medical literature in 1955, although this was not
publicly realized until 1967
Post-operatively, he developed a urinary tract infection and had a transfusion reaction, characterized
by "mild angioneurotic edema." He also had a repeat operation four months later