The U.S. Constitution sets no mental or health qualifications to serve as President of the United States. It provides only that the person shall be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years of age, and a resident of the U.S. for 14 years. It is simply assumed that political parties would not nominate and the voters would not select a person who was not physically or mentally capable of carrying out the duties of the office.
The timing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to legislate a 25th Amendment process to remove a future President might be related to concerns about Joe Biden’s capacity, notes the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS). If Biden were removed after Inauguration, Kamala Harris, whom he chose as his running mate despite her poor performance at the primary stage, would succeed him.
Physicians cannot diagnose a person they have not personally examined, states AAPS, but some of the signs a physician would look for may help voters assess a candidate’s fitness.
Instructions to medical students, according to AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient, M.D., who taught medical students for years, include the following:
- Check for orientation to time. Patients should be able to supply the exact date—month, day, and year.
- Check for orientation to place, including city and state.
- A frequent question is: “Who is the President of the U.S.?”—now.
- Some signs that may be observed in conversing are: word-finding difficulty, trouble recognizing family members or friends, inappropriate answers that do not relate to the question (to be distinguished from deliberately evading it).
- Check recent memory. A person with dementia may have excellent recollection of events from the remote past, but not remember what happened yesterday, or positions previously promoted on important issues.
While people engaged in stressful, rapid-paced activities may have occasional lapses, it is not normal to mistake the identity of close acquaintances, forget the name of the President or of a candidate on the opposing ticket in a prior election (such as Mitt Romney), not know the state they are visiting, or read inappropriate phrases from a teleprompter (such as “good luck”), states Dr. Orient.
Compassionate people will not ridicule or embarrass persons who are struggling. But responsible people will not nominate, elect, hire, or entrust their children to someone who shows worrisome signs of disability, states Dr. Orient.
“The COVID pandemic has caused a situation in which normal vetting processes for both Presidential and Vice-presidential candidates, at an open convention and in frequent direct contact with numerous voters, are not operating.”AAPS has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943. The AAPS motto is omnia pro aegroto, meaning everything for the patient.