In 2019, the public had questions about Donald Trump’s health, especially after he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in November. His behavior since then has only fueled the rumors — boasting about his ability to pass a basic cognitive function test, and tweeting to deny that he’d had a series of mini-strokes, as some people had speculated. It turns out that during the mysterious November hospital visit, the president insisted that everyone involved in his care sign non-disclosure agreements.
NBC reports that four different sources have shared that Trump required doctors and staff to sign non-disclosure agreements during an unplanned November trip to Walter Reed, and at least two doctors who refused to do so are no longer allowed to be a part of his medical care. Doctors do not typically — and by law are not allowed to — disclose information about their patients without permission, with very few exceptions (such as when the patient is determined to be a danger to himself or others).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists (PDF) some of these exceptions, such as disclosing to a family member who is involved in the patient’s care, or when a patient is unable to consent to the disclosure due to being incapacitated, or when the provider deems a threat to the safety of the patient or others.
In November of 2019, Donald Trump made a sudden unplanned trip to Walter Reed on a Saturday. He then, as reported by the Washington Post at the time, made no public appearances for two days, during which time the White House refused to answer questions about the president’s health. His doctor, Sean Conley, released a statement saying that the visit had been routine and was only kept secret for scheduling reasons, although no clarity was offered on exactly what that meant.
Conley also specifically denied the president had undergone any neurological evaluations.
Since then, Trump has repeatedly boasted that he ‘aced’ the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — a test that simply assesses basic cognitive function. Then, an author who has spoken about Trump publicly shared that insiders had leaked to him that the president had suffered a series of mini-strokes. Later, when another author, Michael Schmidt, published a book about Trump, the president began to tweet denying that he had suffered mini-strokes — something Schmidt never claimed.
The president’s denial only fueled the public perception of a possibly serious medical issue, and later when the president appeared to have a bruise on his hand, there were questions about whether it was the result of an undisclosed IV treatment.
Nothing breeds speculation quite like secrecy, and Trump’s extra efforts to force doctors — who would not be allowed to disclose information without permission anyway — to sign non-disclosure agreements have his detractors making even more guesses at just what is really in the president’s medical records.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com