Presidential Illness: A Secret History From Washington to Trump

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jacob Appel is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Education, and Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. A bioethicist, physician, lawyer, author and social critic, he is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia. Appel’s novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012. He has taught medical ethics at New York University, Columbia University, and Brown University’s Alpert Medical School.


The issue of presidential health has at turns fascinated, concerned and inflamed Americans since the Constitutional Convention. How to address the prospect of an impaired or incapacitated chief executive has arisen repeatedly in Unites States history, and several–including Garfield and Wilson–have been unable to conduct their duties for prolonged periods of time. Others, like Madison, Cleveland, FDR and LBJ, overtly deceived the public as to their health. This lecture will explore the history of presidential illness, focusing on the debates surrounding the medical records of candidates, the diagnosis of politicians from afar, and the scope of the 25th Amendment and related removal mechanisms. As our third-oldest president yields office to our oldest president, never has the subject been more relevant.



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