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THE DYING PRESIDENT by Robert H. Ferrell

THE DYING PRESIDENT

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944-1945

By Robert H. Ferrell

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8262-1171-2
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

 A brief study of the medical and political coverups that prevented the American people from learning that in 1944 they had reelected a president who was dying, from the prolific writer/editor who has created something of a sub-genre of history- -sick presidents (Ill Advised: Presidential Health and Public Trust, 1992, etc.). Ferrell leaves little doubt that by early 1944 Roosevelt was indeed dying. Examined by a leading heart specialist of the time, Dr. Howard G. Bruenn, on March 28, 1944, the president was diagnosed as having severe heart disease. Ferrell questions why such a serious condition wasn't detected earlier and places the blame clearly on the president's primary physician, Vice Adm. Ross McIntire, surgeon general of the US Navy. McIntire, a political appointee, was quite simply an incompetent doctor who over the years examined the president in only the most cursory ways. Still, the president was not the best of patients. He seemed to believe he could will away his maladies and didn't want to know the true condition of his health. FDR or his press secretary, Steve Early, even had J. Edgar Hoover send agents to Bethesda Naval Hospital to quash gossip among the doctors there as to the state of the president's health. Roosevelt, in his last year, worked four hours a day at most, at a time when WW II was approaching its final stages. Ferrell contends that if Roosevelt had been working at full capacity, the course of the war in the Pacific might have been quite different, China might not have become Communist, the Korean War might not have happened, and Nixon might not have resigned. This pushes historical speculation too far and contrasts poorly with the carefully researched narrative of FDR's last days, which is the bulk of the book. Though slight, this volume, based on much previously unavailable documentation, does provide an intimate glimpse of the last days of one of America's greatest presidents. (45 illustrations, not seen)