Public's right to know versus president's health privacy

Lauran Neergaard reports:

Woodrow Wilson’s secret stroke. Grover Cleveland’s secret cancer surgery. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretly worsening heart disease at the world-changing Yalta Conference.

Notice a lot of secrets?

While the public knows far more today about the health of its presidents and presidential candidates than ever before, do we know enough? And does knowing about an illness even matter, by affecting how people vote?

They’re questions that will gain more prominence Friday as one presidential candidate — Republican John McCain — performs the election-year ritual of releasing medical records to demonstrate he’s healthy enough for office.

Last week at a meeting of the American College of Physicians, a high-profile panel of doctors suggested it’s time to replace that ritual with a health exam for presidents and presidential hopefuls that mimics the regular fit-for-flight physicals required of pilots — one done by a team of independent physicians instead of the leader’s own.

“Obviously this is a proposition that’s a little bit contentious,” acknowledged Dr. Leslie Pyenson, the CIA’s one-time chief of medical and psychological analysis.

But one reason: The job of doctor to the president has an inherent conflict of interest, said Dr. E. Connie Mariano, who was President Clinton’s White House physician.

Full story – Monterey County Herald

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