Serious voids remain in the public's knowledge regarding the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees, with less than two weeks before the election.
The narrow information made available by the four candidates is vastly different from previous campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were forthcoming.
In past elections, candidates for the nation’s top elected offices have withheld health information that proved to have a significant influence after the information came to light when medical events forced the issue.
Such examples include Dick Cheney (heart disease) and Senator Bill Bradley (heart rhythm abnormality) amongst others.
Health issues carry an exceptional significance in this particular election because two of the nominees have survived potentially fatal medical problems that can possibly recur.
The Times has made it general practice to question presidential nominees and other high political offices and when permitted, their doctors about their health.
Since last spring they have requested such interviews with Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain and his doctors since March 2007. None have been granted. Moreover, all four nominees have been sent letters requesting interviews about their health along with their physicians, to which none have agreed.
Senator John McCain – Republican Presidential Nominee
Senator John McCain, 72, if elected would be the oldest man to be sworn into first-term as president and the first cancer survivor to take office.
While his campaign and doctors released 1,200 pages of medical documents last May, they were released in such a way that they leave unanswered questions, maybe even some confusion.
They show he had multiple diagnoses of malignant melanoma, which have been surgically removed. McCain also has limited mobility in his arms and an abnormal gait because of injuries he suffered during the Vietnam War.
A critical, unanswered question concerns inconsistent medical opinions regarding his cancer; if his melanoma is more severe, it would raise the statistical likelihood of death from cancer recurrence.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. Six out of seven skin cancer deaths are caused by malignant melanoma.
Governor Sarah Palin – Republican Vice-Presidential Nominee
Governor Sarah Palin, 44, McCain’s running mate, is yet to release any medical information.
Senator Barack Obama – Democratic Presidential Nominee
Senator Barak Obama, 47, released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May that stated he is in “excellent” health.
Obama has smoked cigarettes in the past, quitting on several occasions, and "is currently using Nicorette gum with success. But it is not known how heavily he smoked or his number of “pack years,” the number of packs per day multiplied by the years of smoking.
Last week, his campaign released the results of standard laboratory tests and electrocardiograms from his checkups in June 2001, November 2004 and January 2007. The findings were all normal.
Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. – Democratic Vice-Presidential Nominee
In 1988, Senator Joseph R. Biden, 65, underwent emergency surgery for an aneurysm in an artery of his brain. A few months later he underwent surgery to remove a second, smaller un-ruptured aneurysm.
Last week, his campaign released 49 pages of medical documents showing he is healthy, but they fail to reveal whether he has had undergone testing in recent years to detect any new aneurysms.
“After 20 years, it is unlikely that the aneurysm history would pose a risk today,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent.
In July 2006, Biden also had an episode of irregular heart rhythm, reports said. A stress test of the heart at the time indicated no heart disease.
The rest of his medical history contains minor medical problems. He takes Zocor to control cholesterol, Claritin for allergies and Flomax to aid urination.
A leading example of openness was President Ronald Reagan, whose age, 69, became an issue during the 1980 election. Mr. Reagan authorized his doctors to be interviewed as well as himself, against the advice of his aides. #