What Should Israel’s Sharon’s Hemorrhagic Stroke be Teaching Us?

Share Article

America's Stroke Doctor says Brain-damaged leaders should be removed from leadership immediately.

All of us should be paying close attention to what Israel and the Middle East are going through in the wake of the Israeli Prime Minister's stroke. From a medical and political point of view, Sharon's medical challenges and Israel's responses reveal a lack of proactive planning of how to handle situations in which a leader is suddenly or even slowly incapacitated by a stroke or other brain injury or disease.

The loss or compromise of all or part of one's memory, reasoning abilities, emotional stability, speech, and other faculties will generally incapacitate a person to a degree incompatible with being able to competently run a ship of state. As a concerned citizen and a physician with an extensive background in neuro-diagnosis and rehabilitation, I would like to propose that "we the people" ask Congress to form a task force for the purpose of drafting legislation that addresses the sort of medical crisis that is now confronting Israel and to develop a procedure for dealing with this type of affair.

Physicians in charge of cases like Mr. Sharon's are faced with medical choice trade-offs and "tied hands" every day -- in Israel, the USA, and elsewhere. One does not have to reach too far back in American history to see how the lack of a clearly articulated procedure for dealing with an incapacitated Chief Executive has led to egregious mistakes in the handling of their medical emergencies and, when death occurred, their autopsies.

Without the creation of a protocol for handling this type of emergency, treating doctor(s) have to make up their own minds as to whether they want to take a chance on a new therapy or not. In my opinion, it would be best if our government set up a blue ribbon committee of experts that includes key politicians for the express purpose of sculpting a systematic procedure for how best to medically and politically handle a leader who is incapacitated due to brain injury or disease.

Advancements in brain imaging and functional testing have given us the means of readily determining the health and functional status of the human brain. A sudden stroke with loss of consciousness and paralysis is not hard to diagnose but small strokes often produce no noticeable changes except for hard to discern increased errors in judgment, memory, and/or cognition. At this point in time, no leader anywhere in the world is, at the time of their yearly physical, subject to an evaluation of their brain to determine if there has been some loss or compromise of their mental faculties. For that matter, no candidate for major office anywhere in the world is asked to undergo routine brain evaluations as part of their candidacy. Doing this type of testing would establish a baseline so their physicians could use these tests to compare to future brain function exams should their mental health ever come into question.

A new law that requires yearly brain scans and neurologic evaluations of the President and Vice President is, in my opinion, a wise precaution to insure that disease does not rob our country of sound leadership. Such a law might stipulate that in cases in which substantial intellectual decline of (say) 15% or more from prior performance levels occurs, the afflicted leader would step down until such time as he or she has recovered according to established medical criteria. This medically mandated succession would insure an orderly continuation of our government.

All-in-all, the right reforms can help insure that when neurologic disease compromises a leader's ability to function, he or she not only receives the right kind and degree of care, but that power is transferred quickly such the governed are assured of being lead by a person of sound mind. The continuing failure of our leaders to act proactively to determine the best method of handling medical crises such as the type of brain function loss that has struck down Prime Minister Sharon only points out that they, like the rest of us, tend to regard themselves as immune to catastrophe. This lack of objectivity concerning vulnerability is denial, plain and simple. It is time to move beyond it.

We as a people must insist that our leaders remain mentally healthy at all times while performing their duties. Think about it: Would you want a surgeon operating on you who was stroke impaired or who had lost his capacity to reason logically? Of course not! So why should we allow our President to be immune from careful supervision of their mental and brain functions while working in the most delicate operating theatre of all -- the global body politik?

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Noyemy, Laura, Kathy or Amber