Sean Conley, Trump’s White House doctor, facing fresh scrutiny over Covid test timeline

Art Kaplan, a bioethicist and director of medical ethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, told CNN that as Trump’s physician, Conley has a duty to his patient, which means he won’t share information without the president’s permission. “This leaves the public in many ways in the dark about the serious problems that may arise,” he said.

Kaplan said Conley also had a duty to warn as a physician if his patient might endanger others.

“Ethically, any physician is obligated to ensure that his patient does not harm others,” he said. “So, if you knew Trump was positive and you knew he was going to attend an unconvincing event and you knew there were vulnerable people going to be there… I would argue that you have an obligation to speak up and notify them.”

Kaplan added: “This is probably the last thing you do as a physician in the White House if you do that, but even so, you have a duty to protect people from harm, and exposing people to Covid is very dangerous, and I think it requires you to break the assumption of privacy.”

Conley, the Navy chief who was Trump’s doctor from 2018 to 2021, isn’t the only White House physician facing scrutiny. Former White House doctor turned Republican congressman Ronnie Jackson faced criticism this week for making a false suggestion that the new alternative to Covid-19 Omicron was a “midterm election option” invented by Democrats so they could push “unsolicited mail-in ballots across the board.” country” during next year’s elections.

Jackson was Conley’s predecessor in the White House medical office, where he held an extraordinary news conference calling Trump “in excellent health” after a 2018 physical, despite evidence of heart disease and borderline obesity. Later, after Trump nominated Jackson for the position of Secretary of Veterans Affairs, allegations of misconduct, including drinking while working, surfaced. A subsequent report by the Defense Department’s inspector general earlier this year provided a scathing review of Jackson’s behavior as a White House physician.

As doctors in the White House, both Conley and Jackson served in the Navy. But they responded to the White House – not the Pentagon – in their roles as White House military officials.

When Jackson was investigated by the Department of Defense’s inspector general regarding his conduct as a physician in the White House, it was as a result of the inspector general receiving specific complaints about him. So far, there is no indication that any complaints have been filed against Conley.

A Navy official referred CNN to the White House when asked for comment on Conley. Conley did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The job of the White House physician is unique. While they oversee the team of doctors and nurses who go to the management staff, their primary role is to oversee the health of one patient: the president. A White House doctor travels everywhere the President does, often leaving close behinds with a medical bag. They ensure that pints of President type blood are ready aboard Air Force One in case of emergency and that annual physical exams are performed at Walter Reed National Medical Center.

Close proximity can generate a relationship that goes beyond the typical patient-physician dynamic. Biden, who had replaced Conley with Dr. Kevin O’Connor as his physician after taking office, asked O’Connor to join him when he met Pope Francis at the Vatican in October.

It is not uncommon for a president to name his physician upon taking office, although the two most recent Biden predecessors each retained the current physician who attended the men who served before them.

‘Breach of duty’

Protecting the president’s health problems is nothing new. But questions surrounding the behavior of Trump White House physicians underscore how the previous administration’s desire to mislead — and outright lie — so often permeated every corner of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

At least Alyssa Farah, a former White House aide, condemned the decision to keep Trump’s first positive test secret, and said Trump showed “blatant disrespect for public health” by not disclosing the positive test.

Dr. Jonathan Rayner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN reporter Jake Tapper on Wednesday that Conley had “violated his duty” not to impeach Trump.

“If I were the White House physician and I was told, ‘Don’t say anything about this,’ I would have quit,” Rayner said.

According to the Guardian, Conley called Meadows on the night of September 26 when Trump was on his way to a rally in Pennsylvania, and told him that Trump had tested positive. Meadows wrote that Conley told him, “Stop the President from leaving. He has tested positive for Covid,” according to the excerpt.

Trump was later tested again and got a negative result. Meadows wrote that Trump was tested negative as “full permission to move forward as if nothing had happened.”

“I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks, but I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about,” Meadows wrote, according to The Guardian.

“In fact, a test revealed that I did not have Covid prior to the discussion,” Trump said in a statement on Wednesday.

Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19 as early as October 2, and were hospitalized later that day. In the days between Trump’s first positive test and his positive result publicly revealed on October 1, Trump held events at the White House, including a reception at the White House for the Gold Star families. He also participated in the first debate with Biden on September 29 in Cleveland, arriving too late to be tested. A rally was held in Minnesota the day after the discussion.

pink evaluation

After Trump was hospitalized on October 2, Conley faced a flurry of questions about the president’s condition, with him being criticized for making an optimistic diagnosis at the same time as Meadows made a more alarming assessment of Trump’s health.

Conley was also criticized for not revealing that the president was receiving oxygen, which he said was because he wanted to “reverse the team’s optimistic attitude.”

Subsequent reports revealed that Trump was sicker than was revealed at the time.

Explaining the reason for his pink assessment, Conley said at the time, “I was trying to reflect the optimistic attitude that the team, the chair, had taken on the course of his illness. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of the disease in another direction, and with that it came out that we were trying to hide something.” what “.

During his briefings, Conley was pressured by reporters about the last date the president had received a negative test for Covid-19. did not answer.

“I won’t go through all the testing after coming back, but he and all the staff are routinely tested,” Conley said on October 3.

He said on October 5 when asked again when the last time Trump tested negative came back.

Long history of secrecy

Trump’s diagnosis of Covid wasn’t the first time the president’s health has come under scrutiny — and the White House is protecting it.

Trump's former press secretary details his mysterious 2019 hospital visit in a behind-the-scenes look at the White House

Timothy Naftali, a CNN presidential historian and professor at New York University, wrote last year after Trump’s diagnosis about how often presidential health problems are hidden. He explained how White House doctors 100 years ago had covered up President Woodrow Wilson’s bout with the flu and a mild stroke he suffered in 1919. Naftali noted that the illnesses of later presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. From the public, too – even though they weren’t dealing with infectious diseases that could be passed on to those around them.

“The president’s health is treated as a national security secret and as a matter of presidential privacy,” Naftali said. And when the chiefs get seriously ill, the wall of secrecy becomes thicker.”

In the nuclear age, Naftali said, health problems are often underestimated or hidden for reasons of national security, arguing that US adversaries should not know that the commander in chief is in a state of weakness. But Naftali argued that once the president leaves office, the records on the president’s health, which are now often kept secret, should be made public.

Under the Presidential Records Act, an outgoing president can restrict access to medical records for 12 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“At a certain point, the national security argument disappears, which is why we should know everything about President Trump’s match with Covid,” he said. “There is no national security reason – one could argue there is a reason in the fall of 2020 – at this point not knowing exactly when he has tested positive.”

CNN’s Barbara Starr and Jane Christensen contributed to this report.


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