Since I am a political geek as much as a biomedical geek, I love it when the two occasionally intersect. If you haven’t kept up, some right wing websites, like Breitbart, are pushing a trope that claims that a medically unfit Hillary Clinton is incapable of becoming President of the US.
I couldn’t resist commenting on this, because there’s really so much to say. Let’s start with the basics – Breitbart is a right wing website that seems to use the Natural News method of facts. You know, invent facts out of thin air.
You may not know much about Breitbart, but actually they’ve been slithering around the Donald Trump campaign for a long time. Last spring, a Breitbart reporter was actually assaulted by Trump’s then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Eventually, Breitbart suppressed the news, because Trump was their guy, and the reporter, Michelle Fields, resigned from the website.
But the incestuous relationship between Breitbart and Trump gets even juicer. This week, Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive. I’ve never heard of a chief executive in a political campaign, but I guess my feelings would be “whatever.”
If you think that Breitbart is anything but a right wing nut job website who’s in bed with Trump, you should disabuse yourself of those notions quickly. It is a right wing nut job website in bed with Trump
But back to the “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” trope. Let’s see where Breitbart got this “fact.” Because it has a something to do with Gardasil – maybe not directly, but I’m having fun here. Just go with it.
Who’s behind the medically unfit Hillary Clinton myth
According to the article in Breitbart, “The executive director of a physicians’ organization questions how the mainstream media can ignore signs of what could be a traumatic brain injury in the Democrat nominee for president.”
Wow, that sounds serious. And from someone who heads a “physicians’ organization.” That person must be running the American Medical Association. Or maybe they head the American Neurological Association, because they mentioned traumatic brain injury.
That would be no.
The person behind this trope is Dr. Jane Orient, who has some official position with the physician organization, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). She is also the managing editor of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (JAPANDS), published by AAPS. The journal does not have an impact factor, and does not appear to be indexed in PubMed.
All about the AAPS
Before we continue with Dr. Orient, let’s spend a moment discussing the AAPS. The organization is generally recognized as politically conservative or ultra-conservative. According to David Gorski, “it is not an exaggeration to say that the AAPS, through its journal JPANDS, is waging a war on science- and evidence-based medicine in the name of its politics.”
But it’s worse than that. The AAPS stands firmly against any sort of effort at healthcare reform, including medical care for anyone in need. In fact, the AAPS was founded in 1943-4 in response to the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill, which was one of the earliest bills in Congress to reform the country’s healthcare system. It lost, of course.
The AAPS opposed the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, stating that “the effect of the law is evil and participation in carrying out its provisions is, in our opinion, immoral.” It actually encouraged, at the time, AAPS members to boycott Medicare and Medicaid.
In opposition to just about any moral fiber attributed to physicians, the AAPS argues that individuals should purchase medical care directly from doctors, and that there is no right to medical care. Believe it or not, AAPS requires its members to sign a “declaration of independence” pledging that they will not work with Medicare, Medicaid, or even private insurance companies. As Mother Jones stated, “Yet despite the lab coats and the official-sounding name, the docs of the AAPS are hardly part of mainstream medical society. Think Glenn Beck with an MD.”
But it’s not just public healthcare that’s on their radar of hatred. They are also opposed to abortion, pharmacists who must fill prescriptions for all patients, organ donations, and just about anything a moderately science-based physician would accept.
Wow that’s scary.
But I can’t let one thing pass – they’re anti-vaccine at many levels. They are opposed to “mandatory vaccinations” as a requirement for attending public schools (and I’m not even certain they think public schools are a good thing). They buy into the myth that shaken baby syndrome is related to vaccines!
Oh yeah, I was going to mention Gardasil, the cancer preventing HPV vaccine. You guessed it, they buy into just about every anti-vaccine myth and oppose the use of Gardasil.
This is an awful group. I’m pretty sure I would never ever respect the opinion of any AAPS member. It’s simply too much for my rational mind.
But let’s get back to Dr. Orient, because she’s the one who’s pushing the “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” trope.
Dr. Jane Orient
Dr. Orient does seem to have good credentials, like her MD, from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. That’s pretty prestigious.
But it ends there. She has 49 published articles indexed in PubMed, which, remember, excludes the un-indexed AAPS journal. That number would be impressive, if they were scholarly articles. But most of the articles are in very low ranked journals, and the subjects of those articles appear to be pushing the AAPS propaganda, like hating Medicare.
Sadly, she’s a lecturer at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. I don’t know what she teaches, but I hope it’s not “Obamacare will cause the destruction of Medicine in America.” But if she did, I personally would not be surprised.
Finally, digging through her credentials, and ignoring all of her right-wing rhetoric, I could not find one little bit of her experience that indicated she was an expert in neurological diseases or trauma. Yet, she must have incredible diagnostic skills to uncover Hillary Clinton’s medical issues by looking at a few photos. (Note to Republicans, that’s sarcasm – maybe not great sarcasm, but not bad.)
Medically unfit Hillary Clinton claims
This nonsense arose in a blog post by Dr. Orient on the AAPS website. The dots sort of connect themselves since she’s making Tea Party claims through the Tea Party’s favorite physician’s organization.
Just so we’re clear, Dr. Orient started her post with a full-throated endorsement Donald Trump:
For those of you who are progressive, I don’t have to tell you how many ways that is wrong. For those of you who agree with that bullshit, my only question is, “why are you reading this blog?”
But here’s her diagnostic report, you know, based on photographs and videos:
Let me make a few points about her claims:
- No physician with any level of competence or desire to do the right thing would ever diagnose a disease over the internet. They may speculate, but a diagnosis would be only appropriate after medical history, diagnostic tests, and an interview with the patient has been completed. Dr. Orient has not done any of those things, so her “diagnosis” has all the authority of a homeopath telling me that my cancer can be treated with water.
- Even if you convince me that Dr. Orient is such an expert in neurology that she could diagnose Hillary Clinton over the internet, she, in fact, completely lacks such expertise.
- She takes photos out of context. There’s a famous one (see above) that shows Hillary Clinton being helped by Secret Service agents up some stairs. Employing Occam’s razor (you know, the simplest explanation is frequently the correct one), maybe Clinton was uncomfortable with her heels. Maybe the steps were slippery. Maybe she twisted her knee the day before. Of course, traumatic brain injury is the simplest and best explanation (that’s sarcasm, because I know conservatives and anti-science types lack understanding of sarcasm).
- Dr. Orient then leaps from a slip on the stairs to comparing it to veterans who have suffered injury from improvised explosive devices (IED). Really? Has Dr. Orient ever actually diagnosed a patient with traumatic brain injury? Maybe she has, but her comments lead me to think she’s not an expert.
I’m going to be honest. Nothing she wrote about Hillary Clinton is supported by any scientific or reasonably scientific evidence. Dr. Orient is, however, an expert in using anecdotes, her imagination, and a dollop of inexperience to make a nonsensical claim.
Let’s wrap this up
If you want the opinion of a real physician who really has managed Hillary Clinton’s health and who has real credentials that do not include an anti-vaccine physician organization, then read this (pdf). Unless you believe all physicians have the moral standards of members of the AAPS, then we’re going to have to take Clinton’s physician’s statement as being accurate.
OK, one request to you guys, and I never do this. But you need to share this damn article everywhere, because in Googling “medically unfit Hillary Clinton” you will find precisely one article that ridicules and debunks this nonsense. Let’s fill those search results with another one. You just can’t let the Big Lie win.
By the way AAPS – vaccines work and save children’s lives. Get over your pathetic anti-science bullshit.