When candidates, officials have health problems, voters deserve to know about the recovery, the risk, the ability to serve

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In July 1944, a president was preparing to run for an unprecedented fourth term. At the Democratic convention, although Henry A. Wallace was a popular vice-president and had great support, he was replaced by a little-known (but less radical) senator from Missouri.

This was because party leaders knew the president was in very poor health, with uncontrolled blood pressure and heart failure, and feared (rightly) that he might not survive far into the next term.

In retrospect, the American public had a right to know they were voting for a very sick man, but it was kept from them and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected and soon succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

The rest, as they say, is history.

PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE FETERMAN INSISTS HE’S ‘SIT TO SERVE’

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is 53 years old and running for U.S. Senator in one of the most contested races in the country.

His health and fitness to serve became an issue during the election, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the first time a candidate’s health and health transparency has been an issue, and it certainly won’t be the last.

According to the American Heart Association, strokes are increasing among younger people under the age of 50, in part because of the risk of high cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, heart arrhythmias and diabetes.

Fetterman suffered a stroke in May with at least some residual damage to the auditory and processing centers of his brain.

His public appearances since then, including his debate with opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, have raised legitimate concerns about his comprehension and executive function. Can he really multitask and make complex decisions?

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The exact extent of the damages or the medical evaluation of his condition are not known to the public because, although Fetterman allowed the release of doctor’s letters about his condition, his full medical records were not released.

In terms of long-term recovery, while Fetterman’s age is in his favor (53), his underlying heart history is not.

Multiple studies show that longthe length of survival in patients with a first stroke varies. Fetterman described his stroke as the result of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) and a blood clot coming from the heart.

Patients with this type of stroke have a significant risk of stroke recurrence. In fact, a 2020 study in the journal Stroke showed a more than 60 percent chance of a recurrence of stroke or death within five years after a blood clot is expelled from the heart.

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This is very worrying. And a 2022 study in the journal Stroke showed a 50% rate of recurrent stroke within 5 years in patients with associated heart problems.

Fetterman is also reported to suffer from cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart can become enlarged and lead to serious heart failure. His Pittsburgh cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra, said in a letter in June that he first saw Fetterman in 2017 for leg swelling, a “reduced heart pump” and atrial fibrillation.

He wrote that Fetterman did not see a doctor for the next five years and did not take any medication until the time of the stroke.

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Studies show that the 10-year survival of a patient with heart failure (even compensated with drugs) is about 35%. Of course, a pacemaker and implantable defibrillator like the ones Fetterman has, as well as medication, really improve outcomes. The great medical and technological advances we have enjoyed since FDR’s time make it much more likely that a patient will survive and even go on to recover.

We should all admire Fetterman’s personal courage to soldier on, but at the same time, it’s fair to question his ability to do so, especially in such a high-stakes arena. No one would expect a surgeon to operate on a broken arm, for example.

I believe that the voters of Pennsylvania have every right to know what a candidate’s health status and health risks are. Access to Fetterman’s complete health records would help answer these questions.

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It is not too late for this announcement to happen, and on the eve of such an important election, it would actually send a refreshing message to a candidate who has nothing to hide.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect that to happen.

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