Tuesday 14 August 2018

Assessing Trump's health won't lead to a radical prescription

Hidden illness: John F Kennedy. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Hidden illness: John F Kennedy. (Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The comments about US President Donald Trump's health, both physical and mental, are concerning. A lot of print space has been devoted to it and the possible ramifications, but little to the level of other reporting.

There are many precedents regarding hidden illnesses in the US presidency - Franklin D Roosevelt with polio, John F Kennedy with Addison's disease and Ronald Reagan with (probably undiagnosed) Alzheimer's disease. A number of leaders in the US and other countries have either hidden or lied about frailties that would have most likely kept them out of the job. Sadly, there are also many apparently healthy who suddenly pass.

Doctors are subject to rules of privileged information and cannot generally be required to divulge patient information. A permitted report could range from "in good health for their age" - basically still alive - through to "has some concerning health issues" - make sure they pay the bill on the way out. The more detailed the report, the more it can be interpreted, with a blood pressure reading of 140/100 being high for most people, although not as much for older people. Any release of information will need detailed notes and explanations for the majority of readers.

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