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Medical clearance for candidates?

We’re sure all our politicians took note when former British First Minister Rhodri Morgan admitted a few months ago that political stress took a huge toll on him and caused him to have a serious heart attack several years ago.

Even locally, cases of politicians and top government officials having a heart attack, stroke or any serious ailment are not being disclosed fully to the public. We don’t think this is fair. If one is a public official, on whose life the fate of hundreds of thousands or millions of constituents depend on, he or she owes it to the public to let them know their health issues.

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Medical certification

Politicians trumpet their credentials and anything that can boost their image of being a competent candidate, but we have yet to hear one who would include a medical certification from a credible institution, signed by a respected medical specialist, stating whatever medical issues the candidate may have—currently or in the past—and the specialist’s opinion if the candidate’s medical history can have a bearing on his or her performance should he/she get elected.

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The certification must be issued not by a single medical practitioner, who may be a long-time acquaintance of the candidate, but by an institution or tertiary medical center, which has a valuable reputation to protect. If the certification carries the name of the institution, that means that not only one but a panel of medical specialists have examined the candidate and came up with their respective evaluations based on history, physical examination and appropriate laboratory examinations.

The government requires appointed and elected officials to file their SALN yearly to disclose their financial and material assets and liabilities. Why are they not required an annual medical report to update the public on any ailment or health liability that they may have developed during the year? Liabilities include not only actual diseases but risk factors that may lead to diseases. There’s nothing much we can do about the stress of public service, especially if one is occupying a high position. As a risk factor, the stress by itself could lead to a heart attack. If you add more risk factors like smoking, excessive drinking, sedentary life and other unhealthy practices, that increases the risk five- to ten-fold. If government officials are asked to include these in their annual disclosure, at least there will be some pressures on them to change their unhealthy lifestyles, lest they be charged of dishonesty in their health declarations in an official document they have sworn to.

Our other politicians should take the admirable cue from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who disclosed to the public a year ago that she is battling stage 4 lung cancer. Many unfairly say it’s probably just a political “melodrama” to get public sympathy because to this date she still appears to be too healthy to have lung cancer, but we don’t think anyone in his/her right mind would feign to have stage 4 lung cancer. We believe her but the point is, should the disclosure have been accompanied by the medical certification of a reputable institution, no one would doubt if it was true or not.

Physically fit

We believe a medical clearance certifying that the candidate is physically fit and healthy to endure all the stresses of the political campaign and the pressures of his/her work should he/she get elected to office should be one of the requirements our Comelec ask for when anyone files a certificate of candidacy.

Pilots are required to undergo stringent laboratory tests including a stress test to make sure they don’t have a heart attack or stroke while they’re flying a plane. Frail, elderly patients are required by embassy officials to present a medical certificate that they’re physically fit to handle the stress of travel to make sure the airline personnel don’t have to worry of doing a CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) while the plane is en route to its destination.

If we require medical clearances from workers whose jobs require physical fitness, how much more for politicians seeking the highest positions of the land, presenting themselves to govern a hundred million people?

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We don’t want to elect someone who has to take two days off every week to undergo dialysis, or someone who has to terminate an important cabinet meeting prematurely because his/her blood pressure or blood sugar shot up.

A candidate who has serious medical issues should also think of himself or herself. If one’s doctor evaluates him/her to be at an extremely high risk of having heart attack, stroke and other serious complications, slugging it out in the political arena is suicide. He/she may think of himself or herself as mentally and intellectually competent and highly experienced for the job, but there are hundreds, nay thousands of Filipinos who are equally or more competent than one is. No one should have a messianic complex that only he or she could lead our country.

So as the season of political handshakes approaches, let’s think of our candidate’s state of health as an equally important criterion to determine his or her overall fitness or competence.

Just as an employer would ask for a police or NBI clearance from an applicant to make sure he/she has no history of wrongdoing at present or in the past, we should ask for a medical clearance from any candidate we are entrusting the fate of our country to.

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TAGS: health and wellness, heart diseases, politics, stress
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