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Sen. Claiborne Pell Says He Has Parkinson’s Disease

April 10, 1995 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell is not saying whether he plans to run for re-election next year, even after disclosing that he has Parkinson’s disease.

The 76-year-old Rhode Island Democrat told The Providence Sunday Journal the diagnosis ``has not changed my decision″ not to commit to either retirement or an effort to win another six-year term. But, Pell said, ``obviously it’s one of the factors that I would have to consider.″

Bill Bryant, his spokesman, told The Associated Press today that the senator is on a 10-day trip to Africa and has nothing to add to the newspaper’s account.

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Pell’s doctor said the disease, which attacks the nervous system but not usually the mental faculties, is ``very mild″ in Pell so far.

The senator shows ``no evidence whatsoever of cognitive dysfunction _ or loss of intellectual ability,″ Georgetown University Hospital neurology head Dr. Jonathan Pincus told The Journal. ``He’s very sharp.″

Family members, friends and other observers had noticed Pell was walking with an increased stoop, speaking with a weakened voice and occasionally drooling, a Parkinson’s symptom.

First elected to the Senate in 1960, Pell headed the Foreign Relations Committee until November, when Republicans won a majority and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., took over. Pell is not a fan of Helms’ isolationist foreign policy leanings and also is bothered by Republican plans to cut student aid.

In his last re-election bid, in 1990, Pell waited until November 1989 to announce, then easily beat back a well-financed challenge by popular Republican U.S. Rep. Claudine Schneider.