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Reagan's health said to have deteriorated
Updated: 2004-06-05 23:12

Former President Ronald Reagan's health has deteriorated, the White House has been told. The White House was informed that the 93-year-old former president's health had changed significantly in the past several days, a person familiar with Reagan's condition said Saturday.

File photo of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan turned 92 on July 3, 1996. Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's health is deteriorating and he could have only weeks to live, a U.S. source close to the situation said on June 4, 2004. Reagan, now 93, has long suffered from the brain-wasting Alzheimer's disease. The source said Reagan's condition had worsened in the past week. "The time is getting close," he said. [Reuters]
Reagan has been out of the public eye since disclosing a decade ago that he had Alzheimer's disease. He has lived longer than any other U.S. president.

Rumors about Reagan's health arose Friday and his office in California said it had received more than 300 calls over the past two days.

"He's 93 years old. He's had Alzheimer's disease for 10 years. There are plenty of rumors. When there is something significant to report I will do so," the Reagan family's chief of staff, Joanne Drake, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

White House officials also checked on Reagan's health Friday. The White House was told his health has deteriorated and "the time is getting close," according to the person familiar with Reagan's health, who did not want to be identified out of sensitivity to the family. "It could be weeks. It could be months."

Reagan's condition has changed significantly for the worse in the past several days, this person said.

News about Reagan's health came as President Bush arrived in the French capital, the second stop on his trip to Europe.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, at a fund-raiser last month for human embryonic research, described the toll that Alzheimer's has taken on her husband.

"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said. "Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."

Nancy Reagan and others believe the use of stem cells from embryos could lead to cures for such illnesses as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Such research is generally opposed by political conservatives and many anti-abortion groups because it involves the destruction of days-old human embryos. President Bush signed an executive order in 2001 limiting research to existing embryonic stem cell lines.

Reagan celebrated his birthday Feb. 6 in seclusion at his Los Angeles home. The nation's 40th chief executive, who broke his hip in a fall at his home in 2001, has rarely been seen in public since his poignant letter announcing he had the memory-sapping disease.

In that note on Nov. 5, 1994, Reagan said, "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

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