Presidential contender Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hoped that releasing his medical records would silence critics, not stir up new concerns about his candidacy.
He may have achieved most of that goal last week, when he released thousands of pages of his medical records to counter rumors that he is mentally unfit for office. Rivals for the presidency had started a "whisper campaign" alleging that McCain suffered psychological damage as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
The records released total more than 1,000 pages and date to the late 1950s, when he entered the U.S. Navy. They include details of his crash-landing and repeated torture in Vietnam, and the skin cancer he beat in 1993.
"It may have the effect of allaying any concerns that people might have," McCain told NBC's "Meet the Press."
But privacy advocates, including the Chicago-based American Health Information Management Association, worry that McCain's move could set a dangerous precedent for future political candidates.
"As a presidential candidate, you must realize that your actions as well as the actions of your colleagues set the tone for the rest of the nation," AHIMA President Claire Dixon-Lee wrote in a Nov. 23 letter to McCain, urging him to release only a summary of his records. "It would be devastating if releases of health information by presidential candidates served as a catalyst for demands for this kind of information from all Americans when they apply for jobs or loans, get married or partake in numerous other activities."
A source at McCain's campaign headquarters says the senator "is a staunch advocate for medical privacy for individuals. But he also believes that it's up to the individual candidate to decide whether to release medical records or not."
Jurisdiction hopping. The term "home court advantage" took on a whole different meaning last week as Brentwood, Tenn.-based Quorum Health Group petitioned a Tampa, Fla., federal judge to move whistleblower James Alderson's civil Medicare fraud lawsuit to a federal court in nearby Nashville.
Alderson's suit, filed under seal in Montana federal court in 1993, alleges widespread Medicare cost reporting fraud at Quorum. Alderson successfully petitioned the court to move the suit to Tampa in 1996.
Quorum spokeswoman Shea Davis denies allegations by Alderson and his San Francisco attorney, Stephen Meagher, that the company is seeking a friendlier local judge.
"We think it would be more convenient here in middle Tennessee," Davis says. "That's where our corporate headquarters are located and where most of the witnesses who would have to travel live and work. We have no connection to Tampa."
Meagher called Quorum's legal move "a ridiculous and completely transparent effort to gain advantage."
Off target. It paled in comparison with protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle earlier this month, but a small demonstration greeted attendees at the fourth annual Summit on International Managed Care Trends in Miami Beach, Fla., last week.
Some 16 picketers with a group called Floridians for Health Care paced in front of the Sheraton Bal Harbour Hotel on the opening day of the four-day conference. The group protested the lack of universal healthcare coverage in the U.S.
Jonathan Lewis, president of the Academy for International Health Studies, Davis, Calif., one of the conference sponsors, says the protesters were targeting the wrong audience. "The funny thing is, 98% of these people agree we need universal healthcare," says Lewis, referring to the 525 people from 56 countries who attended the summit.
Lewis says the picketers never contacted the summit sponsors or responded to his offer to disseminate their literature at the meeting.
"I've been in a lot of picket lines," says Lewis, who calls himself a veteran activist. "And this was sad."
Contagious fashion. Is that ketchup on your tie or the Ebola virus?
Finding a gift for the man who has everything just got a whole lot easier, assuming that he's a bit odd and hasn't contracted a fatal infection. Just in time for the holidays, a charitable foundation associated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering up some snazzy neckwear that makes a "bold fashion statement, depicting actual cells of a disease in bright colors."
Yup, that special someone in your life soon could sport a 100% silk tie featuring malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, staphylococcus, or, our favorite, Ebola, as its decorative motif. World Wide Web sales of the ties, which cost $35, got rolling early this month (See the "get involved" section of www.cdcfoundation.org). Proceeds fund CDC employee activities, community good works and research.
Michael Baxter, a CDC spokesman, says the ties have been available for some time at a small gift shop on the Atlanta campus of the disease-fighting agency. "They've been popular with visiting scientists who want to bring something back home," he tells Outliers. Hope it's just the ties, fellas.