The Candidates’ Health: Does it Matter?

On the way home this evening, I listened to this report from NPR on the candidates’ health, in which my colleague Howard Markel from the University of Michigan was quoted. [if the name sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen his health articles in the New York Times].  Howard believes in the privacy of medical records but not when it comes to presidential candidates. He said that the president of the U.S. is the most powerful person on the planet and the health of the president therefore is of both national and international concern. Howard also looks at this from a historical perspective, arguing that it’s not good that we didn’t know the full extent of President Kennedy’s Addison’s disease, or President Eisenhower’s heart problems.  Given my interest in disability studies,

Sorry Howard, I disagree. Had Kennedy lived to see a second term, and the physical limitations of his disease become apparent, would that necessarily have impeded his abilities as president?  After all, we had a polio survivor serve quite successfully for over three terms.   Sure, I don’t want to see Walnuts as president, but lets focus on real health issues — e.g. the lack of health insurance and vast health disparities between rich and poor.

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2 Comments

  1. I totally agree with you! There are so many other things that we need to be talking about and with the heath care that they get, it shouldn’t be an issue.

  2. My students asked me a question about Vice Presidential candidates–are their medical records routinely released and reviewed by the public? One student asked why Sarah Palin wouldn’t release her medical records, and I said I didn’t know if she had to (or not.) Has this been common practice?

    And BTW, I agree with you in that Markel seemed a little absolutist in his judgments about presidential health. Kennedy had a lot of things wrong with him that would have jeopardized his presidency, the least of which was Addison’s Disease!

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