WASHINGTON: As she recovers from pneumonia, Hillary Clinton has promised to release more information about her health and Donald Trump has followed suit — a shift for both presidential candidates who have so far kept noticeably quiet on the subject.
The pair have been engaged in a grueling campaign for more than a year, and they are among the oldest people to run for the world’s most powerful job.
But Clinton’s health scare Sunday at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York and the disclosure from her doctors that she has pneumonia reminded American voters how little is known about their candidates’ health.
Here is what we know so far:
After publicly falling sick on Sunday — Clinton, 69 next month, was seen wobbling as she was helped into a car — the Democratic candidate for president initially avoided questions, simply telling the press she was fine.
The campaign did not reveal her pneumonia diagnosis until later in the day — fueling accusations of a cover-up.
Saddled with a nasty cough while campaigning in Cleveland a few days earlier, Clinton had joked that she was allergic to her Republican rival Trump. (She blamed the cough on seasonal allergies.)
The Clinton campaign promised the new medical disclosures would show her only problem is the pneumonia.
On Monday, Clinton told CNN by telephone that she felt dizzy during the 9/11 ceremony and lost her balance for a minute but soon recovered.
She played down the episode and insisted she is much more transparent on health issues than her Republican opponent.
Clinton’s record so far
The only official medical record made public on the Democrat’s health so far gives a general overview.
It is an eight-paragraph letter signed by her doctor Lisa Bardack and dated July 2015. The letter said Clinton was in excellent physical condition.
The doctor recalled that in 2012, while she was secretary of state, a stomach virus and dehydration caused Clinton to faint, bringing on a concussion.
Doctors found a blood clot on the brain. Clinton saw double for a couple of weeks, but later received an all-clear.
The physician said Clinton also suffered from seasonal allergies, hypothyroidism, had deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and 2009 and took medication for the thyroid condition and an anti-coagulant.
A checkup in 2013 showed complete resolution of all the effects of the blood clot and the thrombosis was gone completely, the doctor wrote.
Trump’s ‘astonishing’ record
At age 70, Trump would be the oldest president ever elected. So far he has released only four paragraphs, written hastily by his doctor Harold Bornstein in December 2015, gushing about his state of health.
Bornstein said Trump’s blood pressure and laboratory test results were “astonishingly excellent.”
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Bornstein wrote.
He recently disclosed that he dashed off the paragraphs in five minutes as a limo waited to deliver the document to Trump.
Following Clinton’s pneumonia, Trump has vowed soon to release “very, very specific numbers,” from a recent check-up.
He was scheduled to appear on “The Dr. Oz Show,” a medical-themed talk show, on Thursday, US media reports said.
There’s a tradition of American presidential candidates releasing health records to reassure the public that they are physically ready to serve in the nation’s highest office.
In perhaps the most striking example, Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president in 2008, invited 20 journalists to go through 1,173 pages of his medical records to assuage concerns over his battle with skin cancer.
With just over 50 days to go until the election, “the more transparent they are about their health record, the better it would be,” said Robert Shapiro, a political scientist at Columbia University.
He said this could be done without making everything public.
For instance, a group of doctors could go through the candidates’ records and, without providing details, state if they are fit to be president.
Or members of Congress could vet the information, he added.
Should there be a limit?
“How much do we need to know?”
That’s the question posed by David Lublin, a professor of political science at American University in Washington.
“Even in the US, where we have the endless belief in our right to know the personal about our political candidates, health at some point becomes somewhat of a limit,” he said.
Should a sexually transmitted disease be made public, for example? Lublin said minor medical issues do not warrant being made public, just big ones like cancer or other major illnesses.
But he acknowledged the issue is important, citing the example of Paul Tsongas, a former senator who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992.
Tsongas started his campaign without revealing that he had been treated in 1987 for a recurrence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after previously being declared cancer-free.
He died after becoming ill following treatments for the cancer.
“Had he been the nominee he would have died during his first term,” Lublin said.