by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democratic septuagenarian White House candidates and President Trump provided skimpy details in recent months about their health, renewing questions about how much voters should know about politicians’ medical histories.
Presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan have released some medical records to the public, but no law demands their release, and no candidate has disclosed a full medical history. That has resulted in a huge amount of variability among candidates’ records and painted an incomplete picture of those vying for the White House.
“I find the whole state of affairs about the medical fitness of candidates for the presidency and vice presidency to be driven purely by politics, not making any medical sense, and then leaving us wondering all the time what’s going on,” said Arthur Caplan, founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine.
Last week, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders became the latest presidential candidate to release medical records. The details, in the form of four pages of doctors’ notes, came three months after Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas. He told reporters afterward that he would “ probably not” be releasing all of his medical records, despite promising otherwise a few months ago.
Three other Democratic presidential candidates have released doctor letters: Joe Biden, 77; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70; and Michael Bloomberg, 77. The letters were three pages, two pages, and one page, respectively. Trump, 73, recently took an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the White House released a short memo saying he had an “interim checkup,” an uncommon occurrence for presidents, and didn’t provide any findings from the exam.