Captain Lords's Uremia
The hundredth anniversary of the worst ever civilian maritime disaster was also the fiftieth anniversary of the death of arguably its most controversial character, Captain Stanley Lord, skipper of the Californian, a “tramp” steamer that became entrapped in ice just off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on April 14, 1912. Although Lord was faulted in two widely publicized inquiries for failing to respond to Titanic’s distress signals, there may have actually been a medical reason for his behavior because he suffered from chronic renal disease and most likely had some secondary cognitive impairment due to this disease. An assessment of Lord’s health history shows that he fractured his leg as a young man; suffered from poor eyesight, which led to his premature retirement from the sea by the age of 50; and eventually died from renal failure. Furthermore, his death certificate alludes to previous uremic episodes, perhaps encompassing the time period of the Titanic accident. Lord may have been under some pressure not to reveal his infirmity because doing so could have further jeopardized his career. The literature abounds with evidence that renal insufficiency negatively affects cognition, often years before progression to end-stage renal disease. Captain Lord’s failure to act in a crisis situation may serve as a case in point.
Wyner LM. Captain Lord’s uremia. Turkish Journal of Urology. 2013;39(2):131-135.