News & Politics

Do Trump's Doctors Have to Tell the Media Everything About His Condition?

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Nothing brings out the sanctimony of the media quite like being able to stand on the First Amendment and claim that “the people’s right to know” takes precedence over everything else.

Privacy, national security, the safety and well-being of American soldiers — none of these can hold a candle to the sacred right to know that the media invokes whenever they have a juicy story to report.

And it doesn’t get much juicier than a president’s health.

Donald Trump is in the hospital because he’s the president. If an ordinary American had his symptoms he’d be home in bed and his loving spouse would bring him chicken soup to comfort him.

But because he’s the president, he will get the very best of care and it will be yards away instead of across town. The bottom line is that from everything we know, Trump doesn’t have to be in a hospital but he was taken there because it’s easier for doctors to treat him.

Naturally, the doctors have been fairly tightlipped about details of his condition. How high was his fever? His doctor won’t say? Does he need oxygen? That’s where one doctor hedged a bit. Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley briefed reporters yesterday.

Associated Press:

Conley spent much of the briefing dodging reporters’ questions, as he was pressed for details.

“Thursday no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Conley said.

But according to a person familiar with Trump’s condition, Trump was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday morning, well before he was transported to the military hospital by helicopter that evening. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity,

Again, an abundance of caution may have led to Trump’s medical team having oxygen on hand if needed. COVID-19 affects the lungs and causes a patient’s blood-oxygen level to crash. I doubt very much whether the AP’s “anonymous source” actually saw the president being given oxygen. More likely, White House doctors had oxygen standing by as a precaution.

Conley said that Trump’s symptoms, including a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue “are now resolving and improving,” and said the president had been fever-free for 24 hours. But Trump also is taking aspirin, which lowers body temperature and could mask or mitigate that symptom.

Perhaps the AP reporter believes doctors shouldn’t treat the president’s fever? Of course it masks other symptoms. They don’t call it a “miracle drug” for nothing. But an untreated high fever is dangerous. Treating it by aspirin therapy is a no-brainer.

Trump released a video from his hospital room and the media began a death watch.

Mr. Sherman and I have wildly divergent views on what is “clearly” labored breathing and seeing “fear” in Trump’s eyes.

How much should the doctors reveal of the president’s condition? What is the media’s “right to know” when it comes to the president’s health?

Doctors are in a tough spot, to be sure, but this is obviously a special case. Ordinarily, a doctor wouldn’t discuss a patient’s condition with anyone but the immediate family.

But in the president’s case, that’s not possible. Even if there wasn’t an election in a month, concerns about the health of a president rise above simple curiosity and touch matters of state. Because of that, doctors will not be as forthcoming about the president’s actual condition as they would be in updating a family member.

The simple truth is it would not be wise from a security point of view to inform potential adversaries of the United States of the exact condition of the president. This is a no-brainer — which means the media doesn’t get it. They may be hurting for things to write or pontificate about, and the more dire they can paint the president’s condition, the better. But it would be far better to keep the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, and the Iranians uncertain of what’s really happening with the president’s health.

Does this mean that the White House and physicians have to lie about the president’s health? Not that it hasn’t been done before, but in this case, downplaying symptoms and giving a rosy prognosis for the president is all that’s necessary. And that’s exactly what the doctors and the president’s aides have been doing.

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