By: Kendall Shanks
Hillary Clinton’s near collapse at a 9/11 memorial ceremony has prompted debate over the release of her and her opponent Donald Trump’s medical history. While former President Bill Clinton said, “The public has a right to know the condition of the president’s health,” in an interview with New York Times’ Lawrence Altman in 1996, a complete release of medical history is an invasion of privacy.
Clinton’s campaign released a two-page letter in December 2015 declaring Clinton suffers from “hypothyroidism, seasonal allergies and takes blood thinners as a precaution against clots.” Clinton was the first 2016 presidential candidate to release an up-to-date physical. She recently received criticism from the Republican Party after waiting more than 24 hours to go public with her diagnosis of acute pneumonia that caused her to postpone three campaign speeches.
The Trump campaign released a four paragraph letter. Trump’s Doctor, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, came under fire after saying he “wrote the letter in five minutes” in a covertly taken video.
“I’m less concerned with [Trump’s] health than his character,” said The Atlantic’s James Hamblin.
Clinton’s running mate Tim Kane has released his medical examination, which notes his charts as normal and only shows one surgery (a molar extraction). Trump’s running mate Mike Pence has yet to release his medical records.
There is no law or rule requiring transparency regarding the health of presidential candidates or any other elected official. Bill Clinton released his 11-page letter of health only after being asked to do so by Bob Dole in 1996.
Both Clinton, 68, and Trump, 70, are over 20 years older than President Barack Obama was when elected. The older age of the candidates in this year’s election cycle has lead to heightened concerns regarding both candidates’ health. This could have been prevented if the same constituents who are complaining would have actually voted in the general election and selected different nominees.
Presidential nominees are on the road campaigning as the general election draws nearer. Nominees are likely to come in contact with germs and infections when interacting with constituents. It is not unlikely nor unbelievable that candidates may be diagnosed with an illness during their campaign. Attacking a candidate and their entire campaign over a simple sickness and demanding full disclosure of their medical history is ridiculous.
Presidential nominee Donald Trump has also come under fire for not releasing his tax returns. The American electorate has a sense of entitlement over the private information of candidates. Frankly, it is none of the public’s business if Clinton has hyperthyroidism or if Trump lost 15 pounds, if Clinton received tax exemptions or if Trump is under a routine audit.
Doctors and patients have confidentiality as outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). While patients can willingly release their medical history, requesting a presidential candidate’s health records infringes upon their privacy and confidentiality.