Thursday, October 23, 2008

Got Health?

I would have voted for him even had I known he was in a wheelchair. But when deciding whether to return FDR to the White House for an unprecedented fourth term, would I have wanted to know that he had high blood pressure, long-term heart disease, and was likely, according to a doctor at the time, to “die of a cerebral hemorrhage within six months” of his election? Of course.

The Party elders, understanding that Roosevelt was sick (but not sharing that information with the public) insisted that he replace Vice President Henry Wallace, who was feared to be too pro-Soviet, with a little-known hat-making Senator from Missouri, Harry Truman.

I don’t know why releasing complete, current medical records, if you’re running for President or Vice President of the United States, is optional. If you want to go to kindergarten or college; if you enlist in the military or want to be a professional pilot, you are required to undergo a physical exam and submit the results to the appropriate authorities. Why do we demand less of the candidates for the highest offices in our nation?

Senator McCain did release some of his records, but under such stringent circumstances that it was difficult for medical professionals to interpret them. Senator Obama had his doctor release a one-page, undated letter that declares he’s healthy. Senator Biden released a limited version of his records, but no information on whether there has been follow-up testing to the aneurysm surgery of 20 years ago.

And then we have Governor Palin who until yesterday refused to release any health records at all. No explanation had been given for her decision, except that a spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign declared that the media has been "unfair" to the Governor, therefore they wouldn’t release the files. Which is the moral equivalent of a “nyah, nyah, nyah, you can’t make me” response. A reasonable approach if you’re in preschool, but scarcely what we expect of our elected leaders.

Frankly, the failure to release the records only opens the door to intense speculation about what she is trying to hide (which may be nothing at all). The conspiracy theories are likely worse than the truth. Mostly it reflects poorly on her concept of being a passenger on the Straight Talk Express. Late yesterday, she declared that she would release her medical records, but we have yet to see them or see how complete they are.

I understand that everyone is entitled to privacy and that health records are extremely personal. I don’t have a right to know the intimate details of Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, Cindy McCain and Todd Palin’s medical histories. They are not running for office. But the top four candidates – I do think there is a valid reason for full disclosure.

I believe that all Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates need to be forthcoming about their medical histories. I don’t need to know if they have been treated for strep throat or what allergies they have or even if someone has an enlarged prostate (presuming it’s a benign condition). I do think that an evaluation of the candidates’ health records by an independent medical professional would ensure that no medical problems have been hidden or downplayed. The stakes are too high not to have all the information each of us needs before we cast our votes.

Evelyn David


  1. I agree, Evelyn. And it would seem that of the candidates about which we know a little (Biden, McCain), there are some serious issues that we probably should know more about. But on the other hand, past medical experiences are no indication of future ones, but it would be nice to know what they are doing to stay healthy (which I'm sure is quite a bit, given the extensive health care plan that senators have). Maggie

  2. You aren't going to get the straight scoop on any of them. Being a politician means you don't tell the truth--whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. They may get close to it, but that just isn't part of the job description.

    Everyone loved President Kennedy yet he didn't have one bit of trouble lying about whatever.

    Sorry folks, I've become quite jaded in my old age--sort of seen it all, so to speak.