What if some members of Congress have Alzheimer's?

This is a subject which popped up on Twitter this morning and even though it deals with a story that more than a year old it’s worth a quick look. The subject at hand deals with an article in Vox (I know… I know…) from last October which cites a report from Statnews that same year. It deals with a pharmacist in the Washington area who is quoted as revealing some health information about members of Congress without naming any names. He sees some of the members regularly, filling prescriptions for them, and allegedly some of those medications are for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington.

“At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,” Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

“It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.’”

At first glance, this looks like some sort of violation of HIPPA laws or at least standard medical ethics. You shouldn’t be talking about that sort of thing in public. But since he doesn’t name any names I suppose he can avoid getting into trouble.

So let’s just say for the moment that his claims are true. Should we be alarmed? Is this an issue we need to “do something” about? That’s a question that Doug Mataconis tossed out this morning.

I know there were shock waves around the country when it was later revealed that Ronald Reagan was dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s when he was still in office. And given the important role that our judges and legislators fulfill and the impact their decisions have on the entire country, I suppose these are natural questions. A quick check of members of the House listed by age reveals that ninety of them are seventy years old or older. Once you’re in that age bracket, these are very real concerns.

But at the same time, there’s something disturbingly judgemental sounding about the idea of recalling judges or members of Congress if it’s revealed that they are dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. No matter the impact it has on the individual, can you name one other disease this would apply to? If one of the Supreme Court justices was diagnosed with a terminal illness such as stage 4 acute myeloid leukemia there’s absolutely nobody who would suggest that they be forcibly removed from office. We would wait until they either resigned of their own volition or passed away due to natural causes.

As long as the members and judges are able to get out of bed in the morning and make it to work, who are we to say that the votes they take or decisions they render are faulty due to a medical condition or just what they would have decided to do anyway? While I agree that the entire question is disturbing, it seems to me that we shouldn’t be rushing to judgment of these types of patients in this fashion.