HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain's Medical Records

I am not sure that a candidate's medical records need to be made public but if we are going to consider them, perhaps a little more time for examination would be helpful.  The Associated Press reports on  McCain's health,

Three-time melanoma survivor John McCain appears cancer-free, has a strong heart and is in otherwise general good health, according to eight years of medical records reviewed by The Associated Press. The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting remains at risk for developing new skin cancers, and gets a thorough check by a Mayo Clinic dermatologist every few months. "I do not see any worrisome lesions," Dr. Suzanne Connolly concluded after McCain's most recent exam, on May 12.

The details of McCain's health are contained in 1,173 pages of medical documents spanning 2000 to 2008 that his campaign made available to the AP to make the case that he's healthy enough to serve as president, as well as to counter the notion that he's too old. The Arizona senator will turn 72 in August and would be the oldest elected first-term president. . . .

McCain's most recent exams show a range of health issues common in aging: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March.

The Vietnam veteran has degenerative arthritis from war injuries that might mean a future joint replacement. His blood pressure and weight were healthy, and his cholesterol good but not optimal _ and he switched medication from the controversial Vytorin that made headlines this past winter to a proven standby, simvastatin.

His likely Democratic rival, Barack Obama, will be 47 in August. Obama, lean and agile and a frequent basketball player, says he has quit smoking. Neither he nor Democratic opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton has released health records. . . . .

This time, the AP examined the documents over several hours Thursday in a conference room of a resort just outside of Phoenix and a few miles from the posh Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, where McCain receives most of his medical care under a pseudonym _ which the AP was asked not to disclose. Coincidentally, the release came the same week that McCain's close friend, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, revealed that he had a cancerous brain tumor. . . .

Ezra Klein notes the access was a little shaky and states,

The "viewing" of John McCain's medical records is an absurd farce. A dozen or so reporters hand-chosen by the McCain campaign are getting a few hours of access to 400 pages of doctor scribbles and medication names. They will have no idea what any of it means. The organization that brought an MD to the medical record viewing in 2000 hasn't been allowed back in.  . . . .

As it is, I think health history is a basically illegitimate issue in campaigns. If it were up to me, the chief doctor of the White House Medical Unit would sit down and evaluate each the medical records of both nominees and give them a physical. If there was anything related to the job that should be disclosed, it would be disclosed. If not, not. But insofar as we are going to have medical records be part of the campaign process, they shouldn't be open for a limited viewing by certain reporters on the Friday before Memorial Day. Do it right, or don't do it.

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