Donald Trump was given his annual physical exam on Friday, and soon after, the White House physician reported to the public that the president is in “very good health.”
“While the reports and recommendations are being finalized, I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond,” Dr. Sean Conley said in a statement Friday evening after the president’s exam at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Over the course of approximately four hours, I performed and supervised the evaluation with a panel of 11 different board-certified specialists. He did not undergo any procedures requiring sedation or anesthesia,” Conley said.
The statement summarizing the physician’s findings was fairly brief, and Conley noted that the exam included some test results that were not immediately available. Trump’s physical last year included, at the president’s insistence, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (often known as “MoCA”), and it’s not yet clear if the president cognitive abilities were tested again on Friday.
Most of Conley’s public assessment was straightforward and unremarkable, except for that one part: the doctor believes Trump will remain in good health “for the duration of his presidency and beyond.”
Really? How would the physician know that? For that matter, why would the doctor offer an answer to a question that wasn’t asked?
There’s no expectation that a presidential physician will make predictions about uncertain future events, but Trump’s doctor apparently felt the need to go there anyway.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake added:
Whatever the actual state of Trump’s health is, that’s quite the prediction. Trump will be president for at least two more years, assuming he finishes his first term. But if he wins reelection in 2020, he could be president for six more years, and would end his second term at 78. Conley is saying he even expects Trump to be “very” healthy “beyond” that date.
Talking about what could happen between now and then is morbid, and I’m not going to do it here. But suffice it to say, that’s a very long period of time over which to be predicting nothing impacting Trump’s “very good health” — about one-tenth of Trump’s entire life span to this point, in fact. Things can happen that all the medical tests in the world could never see coming, and they’re much more likely to happen when you are in your 70s.
The Post reporter spoke to Arthur Caplan, an expert on medical ethics at New York University, about Conley’s prediction, and Caplan said, “That speculation is both unnecessary and smacks of politically rosy glasses skewing age and weight and diet.” He added that rash speculation shaped by political matters is not exemplary professionalism.”
In the larger context, would it really be that difficult for Trump to have just one normal physical?
In case anyone’s forgotten, in late 2015, during the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Team Trump released an unintentionally hilarious, four-paragraph letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, asserting that Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” and his lab tests results were “astonishingly excellent.” The doctor added at the time, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
We learned several months later that Bornstein wrote the letter in five minutes while a limo, dispatched by Trump, waited for the document.
Trump’s first physical as president was conducted by Dr. Ronny Jackson – remember him and his doomed bid to become VA secretary? – who became the subject of ridicule after gushing a bit too much about Trump’s health.
Maybe next year’s physical can be less interesting?