A public check-up - Macleans.ca

A public check-up

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Joanna Smith wonders how much we need to know about the health of politicians.

The president of the United States gets to have his business made public every couple of years when he gets a full physical by the White House doctor. The White House publishes the reports online, so Americans learned in February 2010 that President Barack Obama is not only “fit for duty,” but underwent screening for colorectal cancer, got the swine-flu shot and was urged to quit smoking.

Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that would be going too far. “That would probably have a very profound chill on people running for office,” said Vonn, adding that personal health information receives the highest form of privacy protection under the law. “We cannot be cavalier with that kind of privacy promise in suggesting there are entire classes of people who should be required — either normatively or in law — to waive their rights.”