Clinton’s health now an issue

Chris Cillizza writes at the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton falling ill Sunday morning at a memorial service on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will catapult questions about her health from the ranks of conservative conspiracy theory to perhaps the central debate in the presidential race over the coming days.

“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen,” spokesman Nick Merrill said. “During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment and is feeling much better.”

What that statement leaves out is that a) it came 90 minutes after Clinton left the ceremony b) reporters — or even a reporter — were not allowed to follow her and c) the temperature in New York City at the time of Clinton’s overheating was in the low 80s. (A heat wave over the eastern United States broke last night/this morning.)

This comes just after Obama’s doctor called for both Trump and Clinton to release more details of their health:

Today, the two major candidates for president are each almost as old as McCain was in 2008. Having been in practice for 50 years serving a predominantly geriatric patient population, and now a septuagenarian myself, I can attest that the American people need much more medical information from these candidates. If elected, 70-year-old Donald Trump would be the oldest person ever to enter the Oval Office, while , 68, would be a close second, behind Ronald Reagan. At these ages, stuff begins to happen.

 What do we know about Clinton? Importantly, she deserves credit for issuing a useful two-page letter from her doctor in July 2015, but unfortunately that document raised as many questions as it answered.


We were told that Clinton has an underactive thyroid that is being treated with a replacement hormone and that she has a history of suffering thrombophlebitis (venous blood clots) in her legs. This leads me to wonder if these clots were provoked by trauma or some other cause, since unprovoked clots have a more worrisome prognosis. Around the time of her 2012 fall and concussion, Clinton suffered a venous thrombosis in her brain, and she is now on a blood thinner called Coumadin. This is a difficult drug to control, and close monitoring of prothrombin times — a measure of how long it takes a person’s blood to clot — is necessary. We physicians should see a record of her prothrombin times to assess adequacy of control. Being on Coumadin, she would have to avoid certain foods, such as green leafy vegetables, and avoid medications with problematic interactions. There are new anticoagulant medications that don’t require such monitoring or diet and drug restrictions. Why isn’t she on this more efficacious medication?

It took Clinton up to six months to make a full recovery, and for two months, she had double vision. This was not a simple concussion. In 2013, her doctor’s letter reported, her neurologic exam was normal. But that was three years ago. Concussions can cause cognitive decline. Would a current neuro-psychologic exam show any change?

This is all somewhat unfair to Clinton, however, who ends up being placed under greater scrutiny as a consequence of acting more responsibly than her opponent. We can ask specific questions about her health because she has been willing to share some important information, even if it is inadequate. In contrast, we know nothing about Trump’s health.

A one-page letter from his doctor — a gastroenterologist, not the type of physician who usually provides primary care — reported that Trump’s “strength and stamina” were “extraordinary.” We were told “unequivocally” that he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” This stunningly unprofessional, hastily written letter contained only minimal medical information.

We essentially have no medical information on Trump. It’s impossible to know what questions to ask. We’re told he has had “no significant medical problems.” We are told that Trump plays golf regularly. We are told that his “cardiovascular status is excellent.” I would very much like to see documentation of all this. In particular, in view of his somewhat erratic behavior during the campaign, I believe Trump also should undergo a neuro-psychologic evaluation; if normal, this would at least put an end to speculation that he has a personality disorder. He is a septuagenarian asking voters to place him in one of the most demanding jobs on earth. We need to see his medical records.

I suspect the chances of Trump releasing his medical records is around the same as releasing his tax records.

But the focus will go on Clinton now. Cillizza explains:

Coughing, I wrote, is simply not evidence enough of any sort of major illness that Clinton is assumed to be hiding. Neither, of course, is feeling “overheated.” But those two things happening within six days of each other to a candidate who is 68 years old makes talk of Clinton’s health no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists.

Whereas Clinton and her campaign could laugh off questions about her health before today, the “overheating” episode makes it almost impossible for them to do so. Not only has it come at a time when there was growing chatter — with very little evidence — that her health was a problem but it also happened at a 9/11 memorial event — an incredibly high-profile moment with lots and lots of cameras and reporters around. …

But the issue is that Clinton kept reporters totally in the dark for 90 minutes after her abrupt departure from the 9/11 memorial service for a health-related matter. No reporter was allowed to follow her. (Clinton has resisted a protective pool for coverage because Donald Trump refuses to participate in one.) This is, yet again, the Clinton campaign asking everyone to just trust it. She got overheated! But she’s fine now!

Clinton may well be totally fine — and I certainly hope she is. But we are 58 days away from choosing the person who will lead the country for the next four years, and she is one of the two candidates with a real chance of winning. Taking the Clinton team’s word for it on her health — in light of the episode on Sunday morning — is no  longer enough. Reasonable people can — and will —  have real questions about her health.

This health scare plus her awful decision to label one quarter of the American public as “deplorable” may give Trump a boost in the polls.

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