Health

Doctors Question Dem Senate Nominee’s Health After Stroke, Media Silence

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
Font Size:

Several cardiologists and neurologists are questioning Democratic Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman’s health following the candidate’s May 13 stroke and what they view as insufficient explanations of his hospital care.

Fetterman suffered the stroke May 13 while traveling with his wife to a rally in southeastern Pennsylvania. He immediately went to a local hospital, where doctors removed the clot in a procedure known as a thrombectomy. Doctors later implanted a defibrillator and pacemaker in Fetterman’s heart for the purpose of “address[ing] the underlying cause of his stroke, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), by regulating his heart rate and rhythm,” his campaign announced.

Fetterman, currently Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, has said that he will make a full recovery and does not expect to have his general election campaign activities limited by health concerns. However, several specialists are questioning those statements from the candidate and his campaign, citing the nature of Fetterman’s two operations. (RELATED: John Fetterman Wins Pennsylvania Dem Senate Primary)

Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Lee Schwamm, a neurologist who practices at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the New York Times (NYT) that Fetterman’s stroke was likely more significant than his campaign let on.

“You typically wouldn’t do it for someone with just a little bit of facial droop,” Schwamm said of the thrombectomy. “These strokes tend to be very severe. He is fortunate that he went to a hospital that could treat it.”

Several other doctors cited the insertion of the defibrillator and pacemaker as evidence for further concern. Fetterman’s wife Gisele confirmed that the lieutenant governor had already sough treatment for atrial fibrillation, and was taking anti-coagulant medication. However, that condition alone would not necessitate the use of the defibrillator and pacemaker, the doctors said.

“I think it would be fair to say he has at least two separate issues,” Dr. Rajat Deo, a cardiologist practicing at the University of Pennsylvania, also told the NYT. “One is afib, from which he most likely suffered a stroke that was successfully treated.”

“The second issue is that he likely has some underlying cardiac condition that increases his risk for ventricular arrhythmias and thus sudden cardiac death,” he continued.

“He is at risk for sudden cardiac death,” Dr. Elaine Wan of the Columbia University Medical Center said, according to the NYT. “For someone on the campaign trail that might raise concerns.”

The Fetterman campaign did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment for this story.

Democratic Sens. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland suffered strokes in 2022, preventing the split Senate from moving forward with executive branch nominees and several pieces of legislation. Cases of COVID-19 have also left the upper chamber operating at less than full capacity.

Particularly in presidential campaigns, older candidates have released medical records in order to assuage voter concerns that they are not up to the task of governing. Republican nominee John McCain released records in 2008 addressing his history of skin cancer as well as the impact of his years in a Vietnamese prison camp.

In recent cycles, however, candidates have become more cagey with the information that they release to the press. 2016 nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both released doctors’ notes, but faced media scrutiny for being less-than-forthcoming. Two-time Democratic runner-up Bernie Sanders, who suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail in 2019, also refused to release information further than doctors’ notes.

President Joe Biden, who also suffers from atrial fibrillation, most recently released a doctor’s note in November 2021. However, the note did not address persistent concerns from Republicans and some Democrats regarding his mental fitness for office. Biden became the oldest president in U.S. history on the day of his inauguration.