A Disease Called Sarcoidosis

New York City’s medical examiner determines what killed Joe Rago.


Joseph Rago at The Wall Street Journal U.S. election road show in New York, November 2016.
Joseph Rago at The Wall Street Journal U.S. election road show in New York, November 2016. PHOTO: JOSEPH BRINSON

New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner has released its conclusion on the death of our colleague Joseph Rago. The official summary: “The cause of death is sarcoidosis involving lungs, heart, spleen, hilar and mediastinal lymph nodes. The manner of death is natural.” The medical examiner’s policy in such cases is not to release more details to the public beyond that summary, which is on the death certificate.



Journal Editorial Report Remembers Joseph Rago
Remembering our colleague Joseph Rago. Courtesy: Fox News

Sarcoidosis is a rare disease of the immune system in which clumps of inflammatory cells known as granulomas attack the body’s organs, most commonly the lungs and lymph nodes. It often attacks people between ages 20 and 40 and can recede without treatment. In severe cases it can become chronic and cause permanent damage to organs and sometimes death if the inflammatory nodules interfere with the functioning of the heart.

The cause of the disease isn’t known, nor is there a known cure, though corticosteroids are sometimes used to relieve the symptoms if sarcoidosis is properly diagnosed. The disease is unusual enough, however, that it often goes undetected and patients can be ill without knowing it. Readers who want to know more can consult numerous medical websites, including the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research. 

New York police found Joe dead in his apartment on July 20 after they were alerted by Dow Jones security when he didn’t come to work. Many of our readers have wondered what happened to a seemingly healthy 34-year-old, and the medical examiner’s summary is now a definitive public record.

Joe was a brilliant journalist who died too young, but we were fortunate to have worked with him and benefited from his intelligence, his curiosity and a wit that informed and enlightened readers and all of us who knew him as a friend.

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