TRUTHWATCH, by WPDE’s Jim Heath
Claim: In emails and on some conservative blogs, Barack Obama is questioned on why he hasn’t released his medical records. One email reads, in part, “He’s never released any medical records, just a one-page letter from his doctor. Does it bother anyone that a guy with political ambitions for his entire adult life has not left a paper trail?”
This claim is: TRUE
Barack Obama has only released a six-paragraph, undated summary from his doctor who last saw him in January, 2007. Obama’s longtime physician, Chicago internist Dr. David Scheiner, summarized 21 years of records, stating that Obama only suffered from minor problems like upper respiratory infections. A spokeswoman for Dr. Scheiner told me last week that Obama’s medical records would only be made available if Obama or his campaign authorized it.
In the Boston Globe, campaign spokesman Bill Burton was asked why Obama had not had a physical since January, 2007 and whether his full medical report would be released before the election. Burton replied in an email, “He’s been on the campaign trail. Senator Obama has a clean bill of health, as this letter shows. With no surgery or hospital stays, this is a complete summary of his doctor visits and medical records for the past two decades.”
Obama is a longtime smoker who told me in an interview in Dillon, South Carolina, last August that he had kicked the habit. But he recently admitted to reporters he had relapsed several times in recent months. Health experts say smoking causes a list of dangerous diseases including heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
New York Times Senior Medical Correspondent Larry Altman said in an email to me last week, “I do believe that the electorate is entitled to full disclosure of a presidential candidate’s health information.”
In a May column in the NY Times, Altman pointed out that John McCain had allowed a small number of reporters several hours to read about 1,200 pages of his health records, but the Obama campaign would not make Dr. Scheiner available for a telephone interview. McCain’s doctors also answered a limited number of questions in a teleconference.
Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Chicago Tribune that reasonable questions to be answered in a presidential campaign include whether candidates are taking any medications or whether they have undergone any major surgeries. “It’s likely that there will be requests for more medical information, once he is the nominee,” Mann said. “That’s just become much more common and it’s very difficult for candidates to avoid.”
NewsChannel 15 political analyst Dr. Eddie Dyer says it doesn’t make sense for a presidential candidate not to release their medical history. “It is a shortsighted decision that doesn’t benefit a presidential campaign in any way,” Dyer said. “It leaves a voter with the impression that a candidate is hiding something about his health, and it allows the opponent to raise questions about it. There is no downside, that I see, for allowing an objective group of reporters to review the complete health record unless there is something the campaign doesn’t want known.”
Dr. Scheiner concluded his one page summary that Obama was fit for the presidency.
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See our previous reports on the Vote 2008 page at WPDE.COM.