Feature

J.F.K.’s silent suffering

The week's news at a glance.

New York

John F. Kennedy was heavily medicated and endured intense pain from numerous illnesses every day of his presidency, according to medical records revealed in The New York Times this week. The public has long known that J.F.K. had a bad back, but historian Robert Dallek found proof in newly disclosed files of the severity of the late president’s other ailments. Kennedy had osteoporosis, colitis, chronic diarrhea, and Addison’s disease, a life-threatening lack of adrenal function. He took steroids, testosterone, painkillers, stimulants, antibiotics, and barbiturates to get to sleep, but lied to hide his condition from the public. The revelations might further stain Kennedy’s “oft-criticized character,” Dallek writes in the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly, but they also show his “quiet stoicism” in the face of great suffering.

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