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Max Jacobson

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Max Jacobson
Born(1900-07-03)3 July 1900
Died1 December 1979(1979-12-01) (aged 79)
Resting placeMount Hebron Cemetery
Other namesDr. Feelgood
Alma materFriedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin (MD)
Known forTreating celebrity clients
Nina Hagen
(m. 1946; died 1964)

Max Jacobson (3 July 1900 – 1 December 1979) was an American physician and medical researcher who treated numerous high-profile clients in the United States, including President John F. Kennedy. Jacobson came to be known as "Miracle Max" and "Dr. Feelgood" because he administered highly addictive "vitamin shots" laced with various substances that included amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Largely unknown to the public until his methods were exposed by The New York Times in 1972, Jacobson was charged with unprofessional conduct and fraud in 1973. He eventually lost his medical license in 1975. Jacobson died in December 1979, without regaining his license.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in the Fordon, Bromberg, German Empire, Jacobson earned his medical degree from the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin (now the Humboldt University of Berlin). Jacobson, who was Jewish,[1] fled Nazi Germany in 1936.[2][3] He immigrated to the United States where he established an office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.


Jacobson treated dozens of famous clients, including: John F. Kennedy, Mel Allen, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Humphrey Bogart, Yul Brynner, Maria Callas, Truman Capote, Van Cliburn, Montgomery Clift, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Cummings, Maya Deren, Cecil B. DeMille (who brought Jacobson to Egypt as his personal physician during the filming of The Ten Commandments[4]), Marlene Dietrich, Eddie Fisher, Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, Alan Jay Lerner, Oscar Levant, Mickey Mantle, Hugh Martin, Liza Minnelli, Thelonious Monk, Marilyn Monroe, Zero Mostel, Elvis Presley, Anthony Quinn, Paul Robeson, Nelson Rockefeller, David O. Selznick, Elizabeth Taylor, Kay Thompson, Grace Lee Whitney, Billy Wilder, and Tennessee Williams.[5][6][7] Dubbed "Dr. Feelgood," Jacobson was known for his "miracle tissue regenerator" shots, which consisted of amphetamines, animal hormones, bone marrow, enzymes, human placenta, painkillers, steroids, and multivitamins.[5][8][9]

Treating John F. Kennedy[edit]

In September 1960, then-Senator John F. Kennedy first visited Jacobson shortly before the 1960 presidential election debates.[10][11] Jacobson was part of the presidential entourage at the Vienna summit in 1961, where he administered injections to combat severe back pain. Some of the potential side effects included hyperactivity, impaired judgment, nervousness, and wild mood swings. Kennedy, however, was untroubled by Food and Drug Administration reports on the contents of Jacobson’s injections, and proclaimed: “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works.”[12] Jacobson was used for the most severe bouts of back pain.[13] By May 1962, Jacobson had visited the White House to treat the president thirty-four times,[14][15] although such treatments were stopped by President Kennedy's White House physicians, who realized the inappropriate use of steroids and amphetamines administered by Jacobson.[16] It was later observed that President Kennedy's leadership, specifically during the Cuban Missile Crisis and other events during 1963, improved greatly once Jacobson's treatments were discontinued and replaced by a medically appropriate regimen. Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, who studied Kennedy's medical records, concluded there was a "correlation; it is not causation; but it may not be coincidence either."[16]

Mickey Mantle treatment incident[edit]

When he began treating Mickey Mantle in late September 1961 for a case of the flu, Jacobson's injection into Mantle's hip caused a severe abscessing septic infection at the injection site that hospitalized Mantle and threatened his career. It also sidelined him from the Yankees' quest for the 1961 AL Pennant – which they won by 10 games – as well as the much higher profile home run race between Mantle and teammate Roger Maris (#9), which Maris won. Maris also broke Babe Ruth's all time single season home run record of 60 by hitting his 61st home run on the last day of the season. While the episode treating Mantle should have – as several medical regulators admitted later – gotten the attention of those who knew better, it did not alert anyone to Jacobson's improper practices. This failure to recognize the problem was also blamed on the reality of Mantle's lifestyle and his often being hungover or otherwise ill from alcohol abuse and a generally unhealthy lifestyle. This illness was seen by most as just another episode in Mantle's self destructive lifestyle.[17][18][19]

Later years and death[edit]

By the late-1960s, Jacobson's behavior became increasingly erratic, as his own amphetamine usage had increased. He began working 24-hour days, and was seeing up to thirty patients per day. In 1969, one of Jacobson's clients, former presidential photographer Mark Shaw, died at the age of 47. An autopsy showed that Shaw had died of "acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning."[14] Under questioning, Jacobson's staff admitted to buying large quantities of amphetamines to give many high level doses. In the December 4, 1972 exposé that brought Jacobson national attention, the New York Times reported that his office ordered 80 grams of amphetamine each month, "enough to make 100 fairly strong doses of 25 milligrams every day," and that "a substantial quantity of amphetamines he had purchased was unaccounted for."[4]

The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs seized Jacobson's supply, and his medical license was revoked on 25 April 1975, by the New York State Board of Regents.[20][21] In 1979, Jacobson attempted to regain his license but was denied. A state spokesman stated that the then 79-year-old Jacobson did not seem ready to enter into the "mainstream of practice" again.[14] Jacobson died later that year on 1 December in New York City.[22] His funeral was held at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan on 3 December. Jacobson is buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery, next to his second wife, Nina (who died in 1964), and his parents.

Popular culture[edit]

Portrayed by John Bourgeois in the 2011 miniseries The Kennedys.

American Glam Metal band Mötley Crüe named their sixth album after one of his nicknames.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crime, United States Congress House Select Committee on (1970). Crime in America: Heroin Importation, Distribution, Packaging and Parophernalia. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. ^ Bly, Nellie (1996). The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal and Secrets. Kensington Books. p. 103. ISBN 1-57566-106-3.
  3. ^ Leamer, Laurence (2002). The Kennedy Men: The Laws of the Father, 1901-1963. HarperCollins. p. 527. ISBN 0-06-050288-6. Dr. Jacobson was a German Jew who had fled Berlin before the war...
  4. ^ a b Rensberger, Boyce (4 December 1972). "Amphetamines Used by a Physician To Lift Moods of Famous Patients". New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  5. ^ a b Richard A. Lertzman; William J. Birnes (May 2013). Dr. Feelgood: The Shocking Story of the Doctor Who May Have Changed History by Treating and Drugging JFK, Marilyn, Elvis, and Other Prominent Figures. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62087-589-6.
  6. ^ Pendergrast, Mark (2000). For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and The Company That Makes It. Basic Books. pp. 255. ISBN 0-465-05468-4.
  7. ^ Rabinovitz, Lauren (2003). Points of Resistance: Women, Power &Politics In the New York Avant-garde Cinema, 1943-71 (2 ed.). University of Illinois Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-252-07124-7.
  8. ^ Bly, Nellie (1996). The Kennedy Men: Three Generations of Sex, Scandal and Secrets. Kensington Books. pp. 103–104. ISBN 1-57566-106-3.
  9. ^ William Bryk (September 20, 2005). "Dr. Feelgood: Past & Present". The New York Sun. p. Online edition (not paginated).
  10. ^ Hastedt, Glenn P. (2007). White House Studies Compendium. Nova Publishers. p. 289. ISBN 978-1-60021-680-0.
  11. ^ Leamer, Larence (2002). The Kennedy Men: The Laws of the Father, 1901-1963. HarperCollins. p. 450. ISBN 0-06-050288-6.
  12. ^ Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961. Penguin Group (USA). pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-0-399-15729-5.
  13. ^ Reeves, Richard (1993), President Kennedy: Profile of Power, pp. 42, 158-159.
  14. ^ a b c Bryk, William (2005-09-20). "Dr. Feelgood". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  15. ^ Giglio, James M. (2006-02-20). The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (Second Edition, Revised ed.). University Press of Kansas. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7006-1436-3.
  16. ^ a b Ghaemi M.D., M.P.H, Nassir (14 September 2011). "What Jackie Kennedy Didn't Say—and Didn't Know". Psychology Today. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  17. ^ https://sportslifer.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/dr-feelgoods-shot-ends-season-for-mantle/ Dr. Feelgood Ends Season For Mantle
  18. ^ Retro Kimmer's Blog MICKEY MANTLE AND DR MIRACLE MAX JACOBSON " DR FEEL GOOD" https://www.retrokimmer.com/2010/10/mickey-mantle-and-dr-miracle-max.html
  19. ^ Grantland The Last Boy: An excerpt from Jane Leavy's acclaimed Mickey Mantle biography
  20. ^ Post, Jerrold M.; Robins, Robert S. (1995). When Illness Strikes the Leader: The Dilemma of the Captive King. Yale University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-300-06314-8.
  21. ^ Jane E., Brody (24 March 1973). "Dr. Max Jacobson Faces State Charges on Conduct". The New York Times. New York City, New York. p. 1. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  22. ^ Eaves, Richard. ""Dr. Feelgood" Max Jacobson". The Girl Who Shot JFK. Retrieved 2020-04-18.

Further reading[edit]