McCain’s non-disclosure “disclosure” of his medical records

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Posted by AzBlueMeanie: 

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Sen. John McCain learned well from his BFF George Bush with the classic Friday news dump before a long Memorial Day weekend regarding his medical records.

The McCain campaign set aside just three hours on Friday for twenty of the Kool Kidz reporters from the bus to review and take notes on some 1,173 pages of his medical records from 2000-2008.  They were not permitted to remove the documents from the room or to copy them.  The reporter pool did not include the New York Times which has the only medically trained reporter.  Tight Control on Files and Shortened Question Period – NYTimes.com

This is similar to the procedure McCain imposed on reporters eight years ago when reporters reviewed his medical and psychological records.

Campaign officials said they imposed these restrictions to prevent the widespread dissemination of the medical records and to protect McCain’s privacy.  One would expect this level of security for national security documents, but for personal medical records?

1,173 pages in three hours works out to less than 10 seconds per page.  If a reporter actually took notes, that reporter obviously did not have time to review all of the pages.  "And time! Pencils down everyone!  Thanks for playing our game of hide the ball."

McCain’s treating physicians provided reporters with a five page summary of their medical opinions. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/documents/mccain_health_records_052308.pdf

McCain’s treating physicians were also available for a 90 minute Q & A after the reporters reviewed the records.  But the reporters ran out of questions after only 45 minutes.  I guess they wanted to get an early start on their Memorial Day weekend.

No medical doctor would proffer a medical opinion on McCain’s health based upon a review of medical records under these circumstances.  It would subject them to risk of a claim for malpractice.

Nor would any attorney proffer an opinion on McCain’s health based upon a review of medical records under these circumstances.  It would subject them to risk of a claim for malpractice.  (As an attorney I have spent countless hours reviewing thousands upon thousands of pages of medical records in preparation of my clients’ cases.)

But the Kool Kidz reporters from the bus were more than happy to declare with headlines similar to this one from the Washington Post: McCain’s Medical Records Indicate He Is Cancer-Free, Generally Healthy – washingtonpost.com  Reporters are not concerned about professional malpractice. They simply write a correction.

But when one reads past the headlines, the AP wire report revealed this tidbit:

"McCain’s most recent exams show a range of health issues common in aging: He frequently has precancerous skin lesions removed, and in February had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed. He had benign colon growths called polyps taken out during a routine colonoscopy in March."

McCain Releases Medical Records – NYTimes.com

McCain has not had any recurrence of melanoma cancer, but he did have a squamous cell carcinoma removed as recently as February.  This contradicts the headlines that McCain is "cancer free."  Once one develops skin cancer, it always remains of concern.  As someone who also is frequently monitored for precancerous skin lesions, it would be inaccurate to describe myself as cancer free.

More importantly, I do not recall that the Kool Kidz from the bus reported that McCain had a cancerous lesion removed in February, or polyps removed from his colon in March at the time.  This might have been relevant information to some voters in GOP primaries which occurred in February and March.

I was not among the select reporters deemed safe enough to review McCain’s medical records.  I have no idea whether his medical records contain anything which might give rise to concern.  But neither do any of the reporters who so readily declared McCain cancer fee and in robust health.  They are simply parroting the summary provided by McCain’s treating physicians.  That is stenography, not reporting.

What I find most troublesome is that a man who claims to believe in straight talk and that he has nothing to hide so often behaves like a man who does.  "Straight talk" apparently includes delays, manipulation of the media, message control and spin.  McCain’s own campaign aids admitted that the timing was meant to ensure the least possible news coverage of McCain’s health.

"Mr. McCain said late last week that he had nothing to hide. Campaign officials have nonetheless said that even if nothing in the records suggests a problem with his health, a rush of news media reports focusing on the cancer surgery was not politically helpful and that they wanted to play down the information as much as possible — something that the timing of the release would seem to accomplish."

McCain Set to Release Health Data on Friday – New York Times

Rather than play this game of "hide the ball," why did McCain not simply authorize his physicians to prepare a standard History and Physical (H&P) summary report?  There is no reason to play this game of hide the ball unless one is purposely being evasive.

There are several of you who will point out that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama have released their medical records.  This is because neither has yet secured the mantle of "presumptive nominee" of their party.  When the Democrats finally have their nominee, I have no doubt the nominee will be at least as forthcoming with their medical records as John McCain has with his non-disclosure disclosure.