Candidates' Privacy Debated

Panelists Stress Need to Examine Politicians' Medical Files

Medical and educational officials and members of the media last night suggested the creation of a bipartisan panel to analyze medical records of future presidential candidates.

Eight panelists discussed whether a candidate has a right to privacy of medical information before an audience of more than 150 at the Kennedy School of Government's ARCO Forum.

Most of the panelists stressed the need for public awareness of the individual health situations of presidential candidates.

Dr. Timothy Johnson of ABC News insisted that the public has a right to learn about abnormal emotional conditions, as well as the "social history" of each candidate including a pattern of sexual promiscuity.

But philosopher Sissela Bok insisted that "everything does not have to be known." She said "that complete deprivation of privacy would make the candidate feel like a "hunted animal," and the experience would prove "dehumanizing."


If all records of the candidate are going to be publicized, Bok said, "the [potential] candidate isn't going to go to the doctor."

She then proposed a "panel or commission" that would screen the candidate's records and expose only pertinent health concerns to the public.

Professor of History of Medicine and History of Science Allan Brandt concurred that the panel would be the best compromise. "Privacy is actually the critical bedrock on which medicine rests," he said.

He stressed the importance of confidentiality between doctor and patient and insisted that despite public curiosity, only relevant health information ought to be made public.