Why doesn't anyone care about Mrs. Romney's health?
Written by
Penny J. Leisch
October 2012
Written by
Penny J. Leisch
October 2012

As a member of She Writes and the subgroups Blooming Late Writers and Disabled But Not Done, I'm concerned about the Romneys' ages and Mrs. Romney's health. She has MS, which is a serious incurable disease. She's already had health problems because of the campaign stress. What? You didn't know. I'm not surprised. The subject has studiously been avoided; however, if Ann Romney develops more problems, what impact will that have on Romney, if he becomes president?

It would be a sad testament to a marriage if anyone could honestly say none. Really. As a person with a disability, I question whether these issues have purposely been buried during this campaign, and I wrote a blog post to express my concerns. Feel free to weigh in with comments. I'd love to hear everyone's opinion.


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  • Penny J. Leisch

    Victoria, I like your questions; and yes, that's what I'm saying.

    As you point out, this is a discussion that needs to happen. People age differently, and the increased lifespan fosters new questions. As the Reagan article points out, there can be symptoms and impacts to a person's functional ability for years, if not a decade or more, before diagnosis of some diseases. In the case of dementias, early diagnosis is difficult to separate from stress, lack of sleep, and other common problems, when people are in high stress jobs. Therefore, I don't want to find out later that a president made a decision to go to war because he couldn't assimilate all of the information. That's an extreme example, but it's not impossible.

    You are correct that it's possible to have many diseases and continue to function normally--treatment for high cholesterol comes to mind as a common one. On the other hand, I've worked in social services and seen the effects of pharmaceutical care too. People who weren't functional often get their lives back due to the latest and greatest drug therapy; however, most of them aren't responsible for running a country. The entire issue is complicated and fraught with almost as many side-effects as the drugs. Numerous drugs are pulled off the market due to side-effects a decade or more after being judged safe.

    We can't possibly anticipate everything that could occur, but I think there is merit in the idea that it's time to examine the potential risks and discuss how to mitigate them.

  • Victoria Grant

    Penny, I may have missed your point. Are you saying that the Romneys should not be in the race because of advanced age and serious illness? If so, there may be argument for a new health standard regarding running for political office. However, what is an advanced age: 70, 90, 65? With today's medical advances, isn't it possible to function well, if not superbly, on a monitored pharmaceutical regimen? 

    You bring up some very intriguing questions that could stand a full across-the-board discussion. Thanks for plucking my brain synapses. 

  • Penny J. Leisch

    Victoria,  thanks for stopping by. I agree we've had great leaders in many eras who coped with health issues. As with all things though, times have changed; the potential consequences of not discovering the effects of age and stress have increased with the advent of technology, as have the legal hoops that must be gone through to deal with mental health and incompetence issues. None of the presidents you mentioned was in this age group at the time he took office, even though FDR was Mrs. Romney's age when he died in office several terms later, which is part of my point. Stamina and ability to function under those conditions for a prolonged time is higher during our younger years.

    I'd also like to point out that health issues cost the public money too. Regardless of the fact that the Romney's have the personal resources to handle any medical needs, government security for the president's wife and the necessary security clearance for doctors attending the presidential family will be born by the people, as will additional transportation, emergency care, possibly even emergency flights to get her home to Washington for medical care. The security requirements for the president's family don't leave them the option of handling those issues as a private matter.

    Since you mentioned the previous health issues of presidents and their wives, it's also noted in their bios that in past times mental illness was hidden, when it was recognized at all; and in some cases, such as FDR, the health concerns were hidden from the public. I'm rather sure such an approach wouldn't be accepted well now, but I know there has been speculation about whether President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's before he left office. One in ten people over 65 years of age, and over half of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s disease. This article by Reagan's son clearly explains why the age of a president should be a concern. Strangely, one of the signs the son saw was in his father's debate performance.


  • Victoria Grant

    We've had past presidents who've dealt with serious health issues. Think FDR, JFK, and Abraham Lincoln who suffered from deep depression and a mentally disturbed wife. Their greatness is not to be denied. Somehow, if Romney is all he thinks he is (personally, not my guy), he should be able to work with critical difficulties.

    I applaud Mrs. Romney for living the life she's chosen to the best of her ability, and not relying on publicized sympathy to get her husband votes. Whether or not they achieve the presidential post, I imagine she'll be a very active campaigner regarding this terrible disease after Election Day.