Opinion | Politics, Disability and John Fetterman

Robert S. April
New York
The writer is a neurologist.

To the Editor:

David M. Perry’s otherwise valuable guest essay unfortunately further muddles the “fraught” topic of mental health vis-à-vis candidates for public office. Yes, many mental health professionals publicly stated that Donald Trump was mentally unfit to serve as president (“The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” published in 2017).

But many of us avoided repeating the mistakes of the infamous Fact magazine article that Mr. Perry appropriately cites (“1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically Unfit to Be President!”). We did not allow ourselves to be silenced by the unscientific Goldwater Rule — which says it is unethical to offer an opinion without examining a person — but attempted to caution the public that Mr. Trump’s thin skin, grandiosity, vengefulness and inability to collaborate with those whose views conflicted with his made him temperamentally unfit to serve in the highest office in our country.

Surely that is not being insensitive to disability (which Mr. Trump ironically was), but rather using our professional experience and judgment to identify personality traits which, as the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings have clearly shown, made him, to cite one example, incapable of protecting the Capitol, members of Congress and the peace officers who tried to shield them.

Leonard L. Glass
Newton, Mass.
The writer is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who contributed a chapter to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”

To the Editor:

I am a disabled physician, so David M. Perry’s essay deeply resonated with me. After practicing, I continued as the chair of a large hospital department, acquired a second postgraduate degree and served as a chief medical officer of an acute care hospital, all while legally blind. After retiring, I still teach, serve on boards, write and take courses using adaptive software.

Mehmet Oz, as a cardiothoracic surgeon, surely managed many patients recovering from strokes. I suspect that he encouraged these individuals to pursue their interests, rather than question whether any disabling residual symptoms would limit their future effectiveness or cognitive skills. That would be the appropriate behavior of a compassionate and caring physician.

Raising doubts about John Fetterman’s candidacy based on his disability is both hypocritical and dishonest. Instead, I would argue that the qualities displayed by many disabled persons — motivation, adaptation and resilience — are well suited for a potential senator.

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