Speculation about Hillary Clinton's health has once again sparked contentious debate across the political aisle since the Democratic presidential nominee collapsed after, aides say, overheating from dehydration during a memorial service to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Her doctor, Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine at Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical, released a statement—which can be read here (pdf)—explaining that Clinton is being treated for pneumonia and was supposed to be on bed rest, but that she's "recovering nicely."
So, what exactly is all the fuss about, then?
According to right-wing conspiracy theorists, Clinton is suffering from a mysterious basket of illnesses and is unfit to serve as president of the United States even though nothing in Bardack's report substantiates those claims.
In her July 2015 report on Clinton's health, Bardack wrote:
Mrs. Clinton is a healthy 67-year-old female whose current medical conditions include hypothyroidism and seasonal pollen allergies. Her past medical history is notable for a deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and in 2009, an elbow fracture in 2009 and a concussion in 2012.
In December of 2012, Mrs. Clinton suffered a stomach virus after traveling, became dehydrated, fainted and sustained a concussion. During follow-up evaluations, Mrs. Clinton was found to have a traverse sinus venous thrombosis and began anticoagulation therapy to dissolve the clot …
Among other notable findings in Bardack's report: Clinton "does not smoke; she drinks alcohol occasionally. She eats a diet rich in lean protein, vegetables and fruit. She exercises regularly, including yoga, swimming, walking and weight-training."
In Bardack's professional opinion:
Mrs. Clinton is a healthy female with hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, on longterm anticoagulation. She participates in a healthy lifestyle and has had a full medical evaluation, which reveals no evidence of additional medical issues or cardiovascular disease. Her cancer screening evaluations are all negative. She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States.
In August of this year, Bardack reconfirmed her findings about Clinton's health—in the same month that fake Clinton medical records (dated Feb. 5, 2014) were released and Wikileaks released an email allegedly showing a Clinton staffer providing the then secretary of state with information about the drug modafinil (Provigil). This drug is experimentally used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, as well as to increase cognitive alertness and treat exhaustion in general.
Clinton has stated that her mission is to invest $2 billion into making a cure for Alzheimer's possible by 2025, but that has not been put forth as a reason for this alleged research. Instead, the right wing, primarily the so-called alt-right, is convinced that the Clintons—either Hillary Clinton or both she and her husband—are hiding an Alzheimer's or Parkinson's diagnosis, and the rumor mill continues at full tilt.
At least two of this country's most popular presidents—John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan—both suffered from chronic and debilitating illnesses. They hid them well, and shrines have been built in their honor. President Barack Obama has been a part-time smoker since he was a teenager (Has he quit; has he not quit?), and yet most of the nation shrugs it off. As to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, we really have no idea as to the state of his health because he apparently found his doctor on Craigslist.
Hillary Clinton may well have an illness that we know nothing about. Releasing a full medical history provided by nonpartisan and independent sources is not a requirement for running for president of the United States. Still, it would take more than a Wikileaked email and an upper-respiratory infection to determine the state of Clinton's health. And even then, no one's health or life is guaranteed; this is the primary reason the U.S. political system includes vice presidents.
We must do a better job of shifting these conversations from "Is this person ill?" to "Does this person have an illness and/or partake in activities that preclude him or her from doing the job effectively and to the best of his or her abilities?" Anything more is voyeuristic and stigmatizing; anything less is dangerous.
Read Clinton's full health report: Statement on Hillary Clinton's Health (pdf).