Yellen returns to Washington; questions remain after health scare

Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:45pm EDT
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By Jonathan Spicer and Ann Saphir

AMHERST, Mass./SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is back in Washington on Friday, a day after receiving emergency medical attention following a speech during which she appeared to lose concentration and which she struggled to finish.

A Fed spokesperson would not comment on whether Yellen planned to see a doctor for a follow up check-up, and would not comment on her health beyond last night’s statement that she had felt dehydrated after speaking for nearly an hour at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Yellen, 69, who received medical assistance in a private room offstage, later attended a dinner with the university’s chancellor and other special guests. She appeared fine and was talkative, according to one person at the dinner. A Fed spokesperson said Yellen felt fine after the incident.

Yellen is the most powerful figure in world finance and her health scare came at a key time for the Fed, which has been debating raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The speech was Yellen's first since last week's Fed decision to delay a much-anticipated rate "lift-off."

After the speech, during which Yellen appeared to lose focus, repeating some words and slowing down, the Fed chief was seen by the university's emergency team and later carried on with her schedule.

"If you ask me, is it concerning, I think it is concerning," said Dr. Andrew Stemer, an assistant professor of neurology and radiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

But he added it was hard to offer a diagnosis without lab tests, an exam or medical history: "I want to be cautious about speculating on things that I can't know...I'm sure she’s getting excellent care and that her physicians are working this up."

U.S. presidents typically receive more exhaustive checks.   Continued...

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pauses as she looks down at her speech as she struggled to finish at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts September 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Mary Schwalm