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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Commentary

Player’s death aside, privacy rights still important


Despite being all of six foot five inches and 260 pounds, the death of Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams somehow was largely missed by the media and many NFL fans.

On one hand, it’s understandable. Adams wasn’t a big name, and between the hoopla of the NFL playoffs and the tragedy in Haiti, most other stories were pushed from the headlines. Yet, how many 26-year old professional athletes do you know who have died of a heart condition?

Adams’ particular condition—cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart—could have been detected had he undergone an electrocardiogram, and the league is considering having all players undergo the procedure, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

From a medical point of view, this makes logical sense. Adams’ condition could have been treated, and thus his death possibly prevented. The NBA already has such measures in place, following the death of Jason Collier in 2005.

The legal and ethical aspect of this is far more complicated. Although the EKG itself is not seen as an issue, it could raise the question of what would be done to players who are found to have issues with their heart.

Take for instance Eddy Curry who, according to the AP, was asked to take a DNA test by the Chicago Bulls in 2005. Curry, who had a minor heart condition but had been cleared to play by doctors, refused to undergo the DNA test due to concern that it might have shown a larger underlying condition. He was subsequently traded.

Some may argue that Curry is gambling on his life, but that is his decision to make. Had the DNA test revealed a condition, it is possible Curry could have been forced to retire or had his contract voided.

Not surprisingly, this ethical argument has been expanded to the world outside of sports. Can employers or health care providers demand that you take a DNA test to check for possible conditions? Could you then be denied a job or health care if you were merely more likely to have a mental illness or high blood pressure?

President Obama has expressed reservations about such practices by introducing legislation in 2007 as a U.S. Senator to check assure accuracy on such tests.

Adams’ death is a sad event for his family, friends and teammates to be certain. Though the NFL is right to want to err on the side of caution, it needs to tread lightly to protect privacy rights.

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