Wild and mostly baseless speculation about Clinton’s health has become the latest attack point for right-wing conspiracy mongers intent on derailing her campaign.
But Trump has also been the target of widespread and also largely unfounded claims about his mental instability and psychopathic tendencies.
A candidate’s mental and physical health are certainly relevant when it comes to serving as President of the United States.
But when doctors comment based merely on “appearances” without examining the patient or reviewing medical records, they are engaging in unethical conduct, according to medical ethics codes.
A number of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists have weighed in on the candidates’ health in this election cycle. But it’s not the first time speculation has run rampant in a political campaign.
The 1964 election pitting arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater against President Lyndon Johnson, pushed the boundaries on the issue.
The speculation by doctors on Goldwater’s mental state was intense and difficult to refute.
The American Journal of Psychiatry charged at the time that the speculation was nothing more than “political bias …wrapped up in the pseudo-technical flagellation of Senator Goldwater.”
The incident led to what became known as “The Goldwater Rule.”
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) incorporated it as part of its “Principles of Medical Ethics.”
It forbids psychiatrists from commenting on an individuals’ mental state without examining them personally and being authorized by the person to make such comments,” according to trade journal Psychiatric News.
The rule, however, seems to have been lost on doctors who have commented on the candidates’ health in the current campaign.
For example, Dr. Justin A. Frank, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and author, talked extensively about Trump’s mental health in an ABC News interview. He at least paid lip-service to the Goldwater Rule.
Pinsky, on the other hand, has no qualms about issuing medical diagnoses without ever examining, or even knowing, a patient.
Pinsky, a board-certified internist and nationally recognized drug addiction specialist, said recently Clinton may have suffered brain damage after her 2012 concussion. Yet he’s never examined her or seen her medical records.
Dr. Drew, as he’s known, caused an uproar two years ago when he pronounced Jahi McMath dead on his show without ever seeing or examining her. The 13-year-old had suffered brain damage during surgery. She’s still alive.
In 2010, Pinsky was forced to apologize to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie after he said they were heading for a split of “nuclear” proportions because of Jolie’s purported “drug addiction” and Brad’s unemotional response to relationships.
His comments were criticized for being highly unprofessional for a board-certified doctor, and Pinsky said as much apologizing for his remarks.
Pinsky acknowledged he did not have any direct knowledge about the couple’s relationship before rendering his devastating “professional” opinion.
Pitt and Jolie just celebrated their two year wedding anniversary after being together as a couple for several years.
In contrast, Clinton’s personal physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack, wrote a letter last month summarizing Clinton’s treatment for a brain concussion, blood clots affecting her legs and brain on separate occasions, an under-active thyroid gland and a family history of heart disease.
Bardack concluded that Clinton suffered from no serious health issues that would prevent her from carrying out her duties as president, according to The New York Times.
Trump has been far less forthcoming with his medical history. He released a letter from Manhattan gastroenterologist Harold Bornstein, who said he’s been Trump’s personal physician since 1980.
Without going into detail, Bornstein said Trump is the “picture of health.” The letter, however, has been widely derided for containing unprofessional language to describe medical tests and other issues.
Dr. Ben Carson, a well-known pediatric brain surgeon and Republican primary candidate, has called on both candidates to release their full medical records.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, GOP candidate John McCain released hundreds of pages of medical records to answer critics about his health.
He set a standard that should be followed now by both candidates.
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