Has a president ever refused
Does a US president see a doctor ...
Why does Donald Trump even go to the doctor?
Because he decided to do it. Nobody is forcing the US president and there is no legal requirement that the head of state must be examined by a doctor. With his investigation, Trump is only following a tradition begun by Ronald Reagan: all incumbents make the results of these check-ups public.
Could he have said no too?
Yes, and so far the US president has not shied away from breaking the conventions of his office. The timing of his decision was correspondingly interesting: the White House announced the date of the investigation just one day after Trump's announcement that Jerusalem would be recognized as Israel's capital. His Jerusalem speech had caused irritation not only because of its content, but also because of its mumbling speech and raised questions about the state of health of the oldest US president when he was first elected.
What's behind Trump's decision?
Trump's official doctor's appointment can be interpreted as an attempt to end the discussions about his state of health that have never ended since the beginning of his candidacy. Critics have often taken his unpredictable nature as an opportunity to judge him as mentally unstable. His followers, on the other hand, have always praised Trump's unorthodox style as one of his greatest assets.
Trump's decision is also so important because he vehemently refused to publish a health report during the election campaign. A short letter from Trump's then family doctor, Harold Bornstein, peppered with few details but a few typos, culminated in a declaration that Trump would be "the healthiest person ever to be elected president."
What will one really learn about Trump's health?
Only as much as he would like to reveal himself. The President, like every other US citizen, protects medical confidentiality, but also the right to privacy, from the fact that information about his state of health may be published without express consent.
What information is not disclosed?
The president has to approve all published information. But that doesn't mean the actual report by his doctor, Ronny Jackson, will remove all concerns about Trump's health, said Robert Darling, a White House doctor under Bill Clinton. "The investigation will not be conducted by Dr. Jackson alone," he said.
The President is being examined at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, Darling estimates by a dozen doctors. Together this group will write an opinion, which Jackson will then publish. And while this is a comprehensive examination, it usually does not include a mental health assessment. The White House had already confirmed that.
How did Trump's predecessors think?
Indeed, Donald Trump's reluctance to health is nothing new. There have been a few presidents who not only hesitated to reveal details about their health, but also actively covered up illnesses.
In 1883 the then incumbent Grover Cleveland was operated on for oral cancer on a yacht in the East River off New York. The public learned about Woodrow Wilson's stroke in 1919, which significantly reduced his ability to work, just as late as it did about the fact that his wife Edith had meanwhile taken over part of his duties.
Not as healthy as he looked: Ex-US President John F. Kennedy
While John F. Kennedy was always applauded for his youthful and vital charisma, after his death it turned out that he not only had to struggle with chronic illnesses, but also a resulting drug addiction. Ronald Reagan's health was also discussed publicly towards the end of his second presidency. Then five years after his tenure, he admitted that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Why is Trump's investigation still important?
"Unfortunately, we have a long history in this country of presidents hiding their health," said Barbara Perry, director of the Center for Presidential Research at the University of Virginia. For this reason alone, in their opinion, medical confidentiality should be suspended for office holders. "Our lives are in the hands of US presidents just as they are in the hands of airplane pilots," she argues.
After all, an airline also needs to know about the mental and physical health of its pilots. "I think US citizens have a right to be informed about the physical and mental health of their President and Commander-in-Chief, especially since he regularly reminds us that he has his finger on the 'red button'."
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