At 68 and 70 respectively, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are amongst the oldest-ever candidates for the American presidency. With the country’s history of sick presidents whose health influenced policy – Woodrow Wilson, FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan, amongst others – pundits are debating whether candidates should disclose the state of their health.
Earlier this week Clinton collapsed at a 9/11 function in New York; her doctor disclosed that she had a mild case of pneumonia. Although she quickly bounced back, this incident fed rumours spread by Trump supporters that she lacks the strength and stamina needed for the job. It also reminded observers that Clinton had kept her medical reports extremely private.
Trump boasts that his health is extraordinarily good and even handed over a couple of sheets of paper to Dr Oz on air which purported to be his medical records. "If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency," said his doctor of 35 years, somewhat hyperbolically. That makes him healthier than President Theodore Roosevelt, whose fitness is an American legend. So perhaps Trump’s openness is no more revealing than Clinton’s discretion.
This prompted a forum in the New York Times about whether candidates should be required to have a medical examination or whether their privacy should be respected.
Dr Haider Warraich, a cardiologist at Duke Medical School, argued that if other professions require them, candidates for the Oval Office should, too. He backs a thorough review by “nonpartisan physicians” who would “disclose information deemed to be of significance”.
Sarah Gollust, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, thought that examinations could be counterproductive. No matter what the results, they would not change the mind of many voters, nor would they quell conspiracy theories.
Similarly, Nicole Bauer, of the University of Alabama, contended that medical results would be just as subject to spin and distortion as other information. “In the end, the public probably doesn’t need to know much about a presidential candidate’s health.” After all, polio-victim FDR concealed his handicap from the public and died in office – but pushed through the New Deal and won World War II.
But Rick Shenkman, of the History Network, backed disclosure: “In the 21st century it’s nearly impossible for a president to conceal an illness, serious or not. As Hillary Clinton learned this past week, cell phones make transparency requisite even in situations where an ailment is unlikely to impact a leader’s ability to function. Blissful ignorance is no longer an option.”
Today is a landmark, of sorts. It marks the first time that a child has been euthanised under contemporary euthanasia laws. Of course, euthanising infants is relatively common, but not children who are old enough to be asked if they really want to die. The death occurred last week in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, although it was announced today by Belgium's euthanasia supremo, Wim Distelmans. His words were very sober and solemn, as befits the occasion, but I suspect that he and his colleagues are quietly happy to see the boundaries of euthanasia spread even further.
Ultimately this is a triumph for out-and-out nihilism, not just Belgium's inventive euthanasia lobby. Nihilism is a philosophical fad which seems to catching on. Below we feature a report on three American bioethicists who argue the case for population control to fight climate change and a defense of infanticide by a Finnish bioethicist. I've also just discovered a new book by South African philosopher David Benatar. In it he argues that procreation is morally wrong because life's a bitch and then you die (I am over-simplifying, of course.) He concludes his book with these cheerful thoughts:
Every birth is a future death. Between the birth and the death there is bound to be plenty of unpleasantness ... Inflicting serious harm—or even the risk of it—on one person, without his or her consent, in order to benefit others, is presumptively wrong.
If I'm right, euthanising a child is not an terminus for Belgian euthanasia, but just a bus stop en route to pure nihilism. What its supporters are trying to eliminate is not just pain, but life itself. What do you think?
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