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Donald Trump is fit to be president.

Or at least—he’s physically  fit, according to a letter published recently by Dr. Harold Bornstein, a New York City medical professional who claims to have been Trump’s personal physician since 1980. “To Whom My Concern,” the Doctor begins, “...Over the past 39 years, I am pleased to report that Mr. Trump has had no significant medical problems. Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results.”

There has been some suspicion regarding the original author of the text—(“positive results” are not necessarily seen as a good thing in the medical community) yet even after setting that factor aside, other questions arise. Dr. Bornstein is a gastroenterologist; does this mean Trump has had a colonoscopy? Why is there a cloud of mystery surrounding the “astonishingly excellent” laboratory test results? What were the tests?
Finally, to conclude the glowing medical review, Dr. Bornstein writes, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Medical Ethicist Art Caplan joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to answer one overarching question: Is this kind of letter ethical for a doctor to write?

“It seems a little, shall we say, unsupported by any possible shred or iota of evidence,” Caplan said. “I don’t know if anybody really knows what the lineup is of that particular office, in terms of their [health]. It may even be treasonous to impugn George Washington, who I gather was some kind of paragon of strength and health.”
Donald Trump claims to have lost 15 pounds on the campaign trail, without diet or exercise. “I’m sure his jaw is okay,” Caplan said. “He works that pretty well.”

But the letter, he says, is suspect in nature. “The whole language there is hilarious. When I get a report back from my doctor, ...it’s a pretty dour experience. ‘Your blood levels are okay, and your tests came back normal...for a creaking older man, I guess you’re alright.’ I never get anyone saying, ‘you are the most fantastic, healthiest specimen of humanity ever presented to me in the history of my practice!’ I think the doctor is acting like a political hack.” Despite the humor in the language, Caplain said there’s a semi-serious point to address behind the letter. “Should we be insisting that candidates for the presidency get independent medical evaluation, aside from hiring these guys to write advertising scripts for them?” Caplan said. “I think they should. I think if you run for President or  Vice President, there should be an independent medical panel that could issue a public report. Some people say you still have your privacy, even if you want to be a presidential candidate, but for that office, I don’t know.”

According to Caplan, these medical evaluations could have been useful in cases like Fred Thompson, a New Hampshire Senator with lymphoma, or Thomas Eagleton, a 1972 vice presidential candidate who suffered with mental health issues and depression. “It could be argued that Ronald Reagan was showing some signs of Alzheimer’s disease when he ran the second time,” Caplan said. “Why not insist on independent medical evaluation? You could have a bipartisan department of doctors, and Dr. Bornstein could be balanced off by someone who’s not insane, and they could evaluate people.”

Medical Ethicist Art Caplan is Head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center ad the co-host of the Everyday Ethics podcast. To hear more of his interview with BPR, click on the audio link above.