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How Real Are the Claims That Hillary Clinton Is Sick?

by
author image Hoku Krueger
Hoku Krueger recently graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature Studies and a minor in French Language Studies. During her time there she wrote for the Occidental Weekly and interned with The Maui News.
How Real Are the Claims That Hillary Clinton Is Sick?
From TV personalities to anonymous Twitter figures, everyone is sharing what they think they know about Clinton’s health. Photo Credit Mark Makela/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Jimmy Kimmel checked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s pulse on air last night. The late-night talk-show host also had her open a jar of pickles to demonstrate her vitality in the kind of ad hoc-doctor way that politicians are using to make actual claims about her health.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani reignited a public examination of Clinton’s health on August 21 during his appearance on “Fox News Sunday” by urging viewers to “Go online and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ Take a look at the videos for yourself.”

He's since, in more concrete terms, called her “tired,” and said that she “looked sick.”

All this media speculation raises the questions: Is Hillary Clinton actually ill? Or are all these claims just plain comical?

Where the Speculation Came From

So where did this all start? Trump originally fueled theories about Clinton’s health on August 15 in Youngstown, Ohio, during a speech on national security, saying, “Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face.” Trump has also said that he “doesn’t think she’s all there,” that she takes too many naps and that she “suffers from bad judgment.”

Trump’s allegations are concurrent with a campaign overhaul following his sharp decline in the polls. He recently welcomed Stephen Bannon as campaign chief executive. Bannon’s last job? News chairman at Breitbart.com, a conservative news site that has run multiple articles speculating about Clinton’s health. And, in a recent interview with MSNBC, campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson made reference to Clinton’s “dysphasia,” which, by the way, is a condition she doesn't have.

Media Muckraking?

However, the allegations of Clinton’s poor health aren’t just coming from the Trump camp. Other right-wing sites have also attacked the nominee’s health. For example, Conservative Outfitters recently claimed that the Secretary of State coughs frequently and has “seizure-like episodes.”

Pundits also latched on to a photo of Clinton receiving help as she climbs a set of steps. FOX News’ Sean Hannity suggested that her “history with falls” indicates that she might be hiding “a serious undisclosed medical condition.”

For several right-wing journalists, the assistance Clinton received to climb some steps indicates that she may have secret health issues.
For several right-wing journalists, the assistance Clinton received to climb some steps indicates that she may have secret health issues. Photo Credit Mark Makela/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In fact, Hannity spent a week on FOX News earlier this month investigating Clinton’s health, utilizing the “Fox News Medical A-Team,” a panel of medical experts, to discuss possible illnesses. Though none of the medical experts have ever actually examined Clinton, they speculated using photos and allegations found on the internet.

Dr. David Andrew Pinsky, popularly known as Dr. Drew, also hit the airwaves to say that he is “gravely concerned” about Clinton’s health and, more specifically, her treatments.

“Both of us (he and another doctor) concluded that if we were providing the care that she was receiving, we’d be ashamed to show up in a doctor’s lounge. We’d be laughed out,” said Dr. Drew himself and another doctor on KABC’s McIntyre in the Morning. “She’s receiving sort-of 1950-level care, by our evaluation.”

The Medical Documents Internet Hoax

Over the past couple of years, screenshots of documents allegedly prepared by Clinton’s personal physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack, have made the rounds on Twitter. They claimed that the nominee was diagnosed with “early-onset subcortical vascular dementia” and that she suffered from “intensified complex partial seizures.”

However, Snopes.com and Politifact demonstrated that the documents were fakes. Bardack’s response confirms: “I have recently been made aware of allegedly ‘leaked’ medical documents regarding Secretary Clinton with my name on them,” Bardack says in a letter released in 2015.

“These documents are false, were not written by me and are not based on any medical facts. To reiterate what I said in my previous statement, Secretary Clinton is in excellent health and fit to serve as President of the United States.”

Here’s What We Actually Know About Clinton’s Medical Condition

The letter referenced above detailed Clinton’s medical record, family history, medications and routine health maintenance. However, the largest section of the two-page statement focuses on a concussion Clinton sustained in 2012 after suffering from a stomach virus, becoming dehydrated and fainting.

She had “a transverse sinus venous thrombosis and began anticoagulation therapy to dissolve the clot.” Although follow-up testing in 2013 demonstrated that Clinton had completely recovered, she continues daily anticoagulants (blood thinners) to reduce the formation of blood clots.

The letter lists hypothyroidism and seasonal pollen allergies as Clinton’s only current medical conditions. Her current medications include Armour Thyroid, antihistamines, vitamin B-12 and a blood thinner called Coumadin. “She exercises regularly, including yoga, swimming, walking and weight training,” Bardack writes.

Once again, she concludes that Clinton “is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States.”

Bardack’s statement is so specific that it includes Clinton’s vital signs from her then most recent physical examination.

How does Trump's health compare? Trump's doctor, Dr. Harold Bornstein summarizes Trump’s medical state in a half a page available on DonaldJTrump.com. In it, Bornstein writes: “Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results.”

He goes on to note, “[Trump] has no history of ever using alcohol or tobacco products.” Some have noted on social media that that's not necessarily true.

Then there’s Dr. Drew’s “concern” regarding Hillary Clinton’s treatment. Truth be told, thyroid disease expert Mary Shomon confirms that most conventional physicians abandoned Clinton’s medication, Armour Thyroid, a brand of natural desiccated thyroid (derived from animal thyroid glands), for levothyroxine, a synthetic form of monotherapy, back in the 1950s.

Armour Thyroid has gotten a bad rap over the years because some physicians found it unreliable in terms of dosage. However, some patients respond better to Clinton’s type of medication.

In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology found that patients overwhelmingly preferred the type of treatment Clinton is receiving over the more common alternative. Another study showed that people found desiccated thyroid to be more “natural” and experienced less hyperthyroid symptoms than when on levothyroxine.

Lastly, let’s demystify Clinton’s use of the blood thinner Coumadin. According to Medline Plus, “Blood thinners reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing the formation of blood clots in your arteries and veins.”

Coumadin is the second most well-known blood thinner. The first? Aspirin.

According to her personal physician, Hillary is in excellent shape and fit to be the President of the United States.
According to her personal physician, Hillary is in excellent shape and fit to be the President of the United States. Photo Credit giphy.com

What Do YOU Think?

Do you think there’s more to the story than what Clinton’s doctor is saying? Do you care about the candidates’ health? Are you interested in Trump’s health record? To the medical experts in the audience: Is it standard practice to speculate on the health of patients that you’ve never examined, or is it taboo for you? Do you think women are disproportionately victimized by ageism?

Editor's note: Originally we included "laughable" in the headline in reference to the Jimmy Kimmel skit, but we changed it to be more sensitive to our readers' concerns.

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