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February 13th, 2008
05:55 PM ET

The First Patient

All week long, we will be talking about the health of the president. This weekend, we will present "The First Patient" a special about this topic.

I am curious to know how important you think it is for the health of the patient to be divulged. It has always seemed amazing to me that we aren't given more information about the physical and mental health of our candidates. It is arguably one of the toughest and most important jobs in the world.

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Health and the presidency: Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at the health issues of the presidential candidates

No question, the information we get today is better than in elections past. John F. Kennedy denied he had Addison's disease throughout his campaign, even though he was officially diagnosed and treated for it. Franklin D. Roosevelt was essentially a dying man when he ran for his fourth term, even though most voters didn't realize it at the time. Roosevelt's doctors didn't even tell him he was suffering from congestive heart failure.

In 1992, you may remember that Paul Tsongas was the first cancer survivor to run for office. What was not known at the time was that Tsongas had a recurrence a year before the campaign. His cancer was back again before he would've been inaugurated. So, what do we deserve to know and when should we know it?

Tsongas for his part actually asked then-president Bill Clinton to create a commission that would require all candidates to release all of their medical records. That never happened.

Last month, Sen. John McCain's campaign released a summary of his records. His staff has promised to release his full medical records should he receive the Republican nomination.

That's important because the 71 year old McCain was diagnosed more than once with malignant skin cancer and would be the oldest president in our history.

As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee weighed more than 280 pounds when he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes five years ago. Through diet and exercise, the 52-year-old Huckabee is now 110 pounds lighter and symptom free.

Sen. Hillary Clinton is 60. So far, she hasn't reported any health problems.

Sen. Barack Obama, 46, was a smoker, a habit that cuts an average of 11 years off life expectancy. Obama has told us he has quit smoking and he can often be seen chewing Nicorette gum.

Does the health of the candidate matter to you and would you vote differently based on that information?

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Program note: Watch "The First Patient" Saturday and Sunday at 8p and 11p ET

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