Health of Donald Trump

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Since the early days of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, his physical and mental health have been a subject of public debate. Trump was seventy years old when he took office, surpassing Ronald Reagan as the oldest person to assume the presidency.[1] Comments on his age, weight and lifestyle have raised questions about his physical health. In addition, numerous public figures, media sources, and mental health professionals have proposed that Donald Trump may have mental health challenges, ranging from narcissistic personality disorder to some form of dementia. Trump and his supporters have denied these allegations, and have contested the authority and motives of persons making such claims.

Physical health[edit | edit source]

Medical reports[edit | edit source]

In December 2015, Trump's personal physician, Harold Bornstein, released a superlative-laden letter of health praising Trump for "extraordinary physical strength and stamina".[2] Bornstein later said that Trump himself had dictated the contents.[3] A followup medical report showed Trump's blood pressure, liver and thyroid functions to be in normal ranges, and that he takes a statin.[4][5]

In January 2018, Trump was examined by White House physician Ronny Jackson, who stated that he was in excellent health, although his weight and cholesterol level were higher than recommended,[6] and that his cardiac assessment revealed no medical issues.[7] Several outside cardiologists commented that Trump's weight, lifestyle and LDL cholesterol ought to have raised serious concerns about his cardiac health.[8]

Alcohol abstinence[edit | edit source]

Trump does not drink alcohol;[6] this decision arose in part from watching his older brother Fred Jr. suffer from alcoholism that contributed to his early death in 1981.[9][10] He also said that he has never smoked cigarettes or consumed drugs, including marijuana.[11]

Records[edit | edit source]

On May 1, 2018, Bornstein told NBC News that three Trump representatives had "raided" his office on February 3, 2017, taking all of Trump's medical records. He identified two of the men as Trump's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller and the Trump Organization's chief legal officer Alan Garten.[12] Two days earlier, Bornstein had told a reporter that Trump took a prescription hair growth medicine, Propecia, after which Trump cut ties with him.[12][13]

Mental health[edit | edit source]

Allegations of mental illness[edit | edit source]

As early as November 2015, Vanity Fair reported the opinion of a number of mental health experts that Trump had "[t]extbook narcissistic personality disorder".[14] Bornstein's letter of December 2015, drafted in response to questions about the health of presidential candidates, did not address Trump's mental health,[15] while claiming that he would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency".[16] Bornstein disclosed in 2018 that Trump had dictated this letter over the telephone.[17] He said: "Mr. Trump dictated the letter and I would tell him what he couldn't put in there."[18] In August 2016, Bornstein stated that Trump's "health is excellent, especially his mental health."[19]

In February 2016, presidential candidate Jeb Bush speculated that Trump had mental health issues, stating "I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but the guy needs therapy".[20][21] In early 2017, psychologist John Gartner collected more than 25,000 signatures of mental health professionals on a petition, directed to the national opposition leader, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.[22] At the end of April 2017 he was able to forward the petition with more than 41,000 signatures of mental healthcare professionals to Washington D.C..[23] The core of the petition stated: My professional judgement is that Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States. And I respectfully request him be removed from office, according to article 3 of the 25th Amendment, and so on. Gartner asserted that Trump's mental handicaps are a mix of 1. narcissism, 2. paranoia; 3. sociopathy; and 4. a dash of sadism.

On April 14, 2017, Representatives Jamie Raskin and Earl Blumenauer introduced the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act.[24] The bill would replace the Cabinet as the body that, together with the Vice President, determines whether to invoke Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permits removal of a President who is mentally incapacitated. Under the bill, an eleven-member commission, including four psychiatrists, would conduct an examination of the President when directed to do so by a concurrent resolution of the Congress.[25][26] Blumenauer stated:

It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country's best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively.[25]

Donald J. Trump via Twitter
@realDonaldTrump

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

January 3, 2018[27]

In January 2018, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and Trump publicly exchanged claims about their respective "nuclear buttons". In reaction, Richard W. Painter, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, deemed Trump "psychologically unfit" and supported transferring his powers to Vice President Pence under the 25th Amendment.[28] In April 2018 Vanity Fair reported that Trump's advisers "worry about his mental health" when he is outside the controls available in the White House environment.[29]

In September 2017, Jeanne Suk Gerson wrote in The New Yorker: "A strange consensus does appear to be forming around Trump's mental state," including Democrats and Republicans who doubt Trump's fitness for office.[30] Journalist Bill Moyers interviewed psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton and said that Trump "makes increasingly bizarre statements that are contradicted by irrefutable evidence to the contrary". Lifton replied, "He doesn’t have clear contact with reality, though I’m not sure it qualifies as a bona fide delusion." As an example, Lifton said, when Trump claimed that former president Barack Obama was born in Kenya, "he was manipulating that lie as well as undoubtedly believing it in part."[31]

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump[edit | edit source]

In April 2017 forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee hosted a meeting at Yale University medical school regarding the ethics of discussing Trump's mental health.[32][33] In October 2017, Lee published The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, containing essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals on the "clear and present danger" that Trump's mental health poses to the "nation and individual well being". They argued that the president's issues affected the mental health of the United States population,[34] and that he placed the country at grave risk of war because of his pathological traits.[30] They defined Trump's behavior in terms of psychiatric diseases, such as narcissistic personality disorder.[35] Carlos Lozada, writing for The Washington Post, considered these conclusions "compelling", but also noted that the book contributors were writing from their own political perspective, as other mental health professionals differ.[35] Lee and others contend that Trump's presidency represents an emergency allowing, or even requiring, psychiatrists to take exception from the APA's Goldwater rule, which holds that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures without having examined them in person, and without their consent.[36][30]

Allegations of early stage dementia[edit | edit source]

It has been asserted that Trump has signs of some degree of an early stage of dementia, constituting an inability to consistently remember facts, or respond appropriately to circumstances of his surroundings.[37]

On several occasions, Trump has been reported as appearing to have mental lapses. In March 2017, Trump forgot to sign two executive orders before leaving a signing ceremony for those orders.[38] On July 5, 2017, Trump, after deplaning from Air Force One, appeared confused and wandered away from his waiting limousine.[39][40] On October 12, 2017, Trump initially forgot to sign the Trumpcare executive order before leaving the signing ceremony, but was ushered back to the table by Vice President Mike Pence to complete this step.[41]

In July 2018, during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki, Trump made a statement interpreted by observers as indicating his inclination to accept Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, saying "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be".[42] Following criticism of this remark, Trump made a statement asserting that this was the result of a mental lapse, stating "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't'".[43] Former Republican governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman wrote of this assertion that if Trump did make this error, "it demonstrates his inability to articulate accurately U.S. foreign policy at the highest level, for the highest stakes".[44]

Responses from Trump and supporters[edit | edit source]

Trump has dismissed questions regarding his mental health, stating that he is a "very stable genius".[28] As evidence of his mental capacities, he pointed to his business success, his victory over Republican competitors, and his election to the presidency against Hillary Clinton.[45]

Trump and others have asserted that such questions are evidence of a problem with his critics, labeling them as suffering from a "Trump Derangement Syndrome" (TDS). For example, commenting on the book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, RealClearPolitics writer Carl M. Cannon argued that the foreword by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton "offers the melodramatic view that clinicians who don't warn the world about Donald Trump's shortcomings are akin to Nazi doctors who worked at Auschwitz. At the risk of practicing medicine without a license, I'd suggest that this historical comparison is de facto evidence of TDS – and paranoid grandiosity".[46]

Cognitive test[edit | edit source]

In response to speculation about his cognitive abilities, Trump was administered the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) at his own request as part of his January 2018 health checkup. He received a score of 30/30, indicating a normal level of cognitive function.[47] Critics have contended that the MoCA test is too basic to diagnose the problems asserted.[48][49]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Donald Trump is oldest president elected in US history". Business Insider. November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 10, 2016. 
  2. Bornstein, Harold (December 4, 2015). "Statement on Donald J. Trump record of health" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2016. Retrieved June 3, 2018. 
  3. Marquardt, Alex; Crook III, Lawrence (May 1, 2018). "Bornstein claims Trump dictated the glowing health letter". CNN. Retrieved May 20, 2018. 
  4. Frizell, Sam (September 15, 2016). "Donald Trump's Doctor's Letter Reveals He is Overweight, But 'In Excellent Health'". Time. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  5. Altman, Lawrence K. (September 18, 2016). "A Doctor's Assessment of Whether Donald Trump's Health Is 'Excellent'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ducharme, Jamie (January 17, 2018). "The White House Doctor Called President Trump's Health 'Excellent.' Here's the Full Summary of His Physical Exam". Time. Retrieved January 18, 2018. 
  7. Barclay, Eliza; Belluz, Julia (January 16, 2018). "Trump's first full presidential physical exam, explained". Vox. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  8. Shear, Michael D.; Kolata, Gina (January 17, 2018). "Trump's Physical Revealed Serious Heart Concerns, Outside Experts Say". The New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2018. 
  9. Horowitz, Jason (January 2, 2016). "For Donald Trump, Lessons From a Brother's Suffering". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2016. 
  10. McAfee, Tierney (October 8, 2015). "Donald Trump Opens Up About His Brother's Death from Alcoholism: It Had a "Profound Impact on My Life"". People. [T]here are a few hard and fast principles that he himself lives by: no drugs, no cigarettes and no alcohol. Trump's abstinence from alcohol was largely shaped by the death of his brother, Fred Jr., from alcoholism in 1981. 
  11. "Part 2: Donald Trump on 'Watters' World'". Watters' World. Fox News Channel. February 6, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2016. WATTERS: "Have you ever smoked weed?" TRUMP: "No, I have not. I have not. I would tell you 100 percent because everyone else seems to admit it nowadays, so I would actually tell you. This is almost like, it's almost like 'Hey, it's a sign'. No, I have never. I have never smoked a cigarette, either." 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Schechter, Anna R. (May 1, 2018). "Trump doctor Harold Bornstein says bodyguard, lawyer 'raided' his office, took medical files". NBC News. Retrieved May 2, 2018. 
  13. Altman, Lawrence (February 2, 2017). "Donald Trump’s Longtime Doctor Says President Takes Hair-Growth Drug". Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  14. Alford, Henry (November 11, 2015). "Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!". Vanity Fair. 
  15. Vox, Ford (December 15, 2015). "Is Trump in the most 'astonishingly excellent' health of any candidate ever?". CNN. 
  16. Hamblin, James (August 31, 2016). "The Bizarre Words of Donald Trump’s Doctor". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 2, 2018. 
  17. "Exclusive: Bornstein claims Trump dictated the glowing health letter". CNN. May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018. 
  18. "Trump wrote own health letter, doctor says". BBC News. May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 2, 2018. 
  19. "Trump Doctor Wrote Health Letter in Just 5 Minutes as Limo Waited". NBC News. August 26, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2018. 
  20. "Jeb Bush on Trump: I'm no shrink, "but he needs therapy"". Mother Jones. February 6, 2016. 
  21. "A Medical Theory for Donald Trump’s Bizarre Behavior". New Republic. February 17, 2017. 
  22. Willingham, Emily. "The Trump Psych Debate: Is It Wrong To Say He's Mentally Ill?". Forbes. 
  23. "35 psychiatrists just met at Yale to warn Donald Trump has a 'dangerous mental illness'". The Independent. 
  24. H.R. 1987
  25. 25.0 25.1 Marcos, Cristina (April 17, 2017). "House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures". The Hill. Retrieved July 1, 2017. 
  26. Kramer, Peter D.; Satel, Sally L. (August 29, 2017). "Who Decides Whether Trump Is Unfit to Govern?". The New York Times. 
  27. realDonaldTrump (January 3, 2018). "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 Baker, Peter; Haberman, Maggie (January 6, 2018). "Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a ‘Very Stable Genius’". The New York Times. 
  29. Thompson, Isobel (April 17, 2018). "Trump’s Advisers Worry About His Mental Health at Mar-a-Lago". Vanity Fair. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Gersen, Jeannie Suk (August 23, 2017). "Will Trump Be the Death of the Goldwater Rule?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 21 September 2017. 
  31. Moyers, Bill (September 19, 2017). "The dangerous case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on "A Duty to Warn"". Salon. Retrieved September 21, 2017. 
  32. An Ethical Dilemma. Archived 2018-01-24 at the Wayback Machine. Susan Milligan, U.S. News, 21 April 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  33. Who Is Bandy Lee? Trump's Mental Health Questioned By Yale Psychiatrist. Archived 2018-01-24 at the Wayback Machine. Gayathri Anuradha, International Business Times, 3 January 2018. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  34. Parker, Kathleen (June 13, 2017). "Is Trump making America mentally ill?". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 14, 2017. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Lozada, Carlos (September 22, 2017). "Is Trump Mentally Ill? Or Is America? Psychiatrists Weigh In". The Washington Post. 
  36. "Ethics Reminder Offered About 'Goldwater Rule' on Talking to Media". Psychiatric News. May 18, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  37. "Trump shows early signs of dementia, Joe Scarborough claimed sources say—what does that mean?". Newsweek. 8 January 2018. 
  38. Seipel, Brooke (March 31, 2017). "Trump leaves photo op before signing executive orders". The Hill. 
  39. Bhatt, Jordan (5 July 2017). "Watch a confused Donald Trump search for a limo that's right in front of his eyes". International Business Times. 
  40. "Trump gets a taste of his own medicine after he can’t find his limo". The Daily Dot. 5 July 2017. 
  41. Wilts, Alexandra (October 12, 2017). "Donald Trump almost forgets to sign executive order before reminder from Mike Pence". The Independent. 
  42. "Trump sides with Russia against FBI". BBC. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  43. Swanson, Ian (17 July 2018). "Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia — then adds it ‘could be other people also’". Retrieved 18 July 2018. 
  44. Todd Whitman, Christine (July 22, 2018). "Calling my fellow Republicans: Trump is clearly unfit to remain in office". latimes.com. 
  45. Diaz, Daniella (January 6, 2018). "Trump: I'm a 'very stable genius'". CNN. 
  46. Cannon, Carl M. (September 19, 2017). "Trump vs. Psychiatrists: Who's Crazier?". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved September 21, 2017. 
  47. Johnson, Jenna; Bernstein, Lenny (January 16, 2018). "Trump did exceedingly well on a cognitive test, top White House doctor says". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 8, 2018. 
  48. Kolata, Gina (January 19, 2018). "Trump Passed a Cognitive Exam. What Does That Really Mean?". The New York Times. 
  49. Hamblin, James (January 16, 2018). "The President Can Draw a Clock". The Atlantic.