|Politicians ...||Oct. 1, 2001|
|Provided by: CANOE|
|Written by: DR. GIFFORD-JONES|
|Power crazy or just plain crazy|
|How sane are our politicians? One wonders how rational they are when we see our tax dollars spent so foolishly. Or observe their infantile antics in parliament. For years I've heard many people exclaim, "My God, these people are running our country?" So how many of our current politicians would pass a psychiatric test?
I recently spoke with Dr. James Toole while attending the World Congress of Neurology in London, England. Dr. Toole is President of the World Federation of Neurology and is worried about the mental health of politicians, particularly world leaders. In effect, are some power crazy or just plain crazy?
Dr. Toole suggested to the 3000 neurologists attending the World Congress that international leaders and senior politicians over the age of 60 should be tested regularly for signs of mental instability.
He proposed tests to ascertain their decision-making ability, memory and behaviour. To stay in power they would have to pass this battery of tests.
UNFIT TO GOVERN
I'd say "Amen" to that suggestion, but lower the age. Maybe it might decrease my tax bill. But more important, Dr. Toole stressed that a crack-up by Presidents and Prime Ministers could have devastating consequences in this nuclear age.
"Today," Dr. Toole remarked, "everyone is living longer." It's therefore increasingly likely that leaders will be older and more prone to illnesses that impair mental ability.
This lecture by Dr. Toole was not intended as a facetious, jesting address to keep neurologists from falling asleep. Rather, in the U.S. this idea has been discussed at the highest levels.
Dr. Toole recently chaired a committee on presidential disability set up by former President Jimmy Carter in 1994. The committee concluded that a contingency plan was needed to manage the delicate matter of a president who became unfit to govern.
As head of stroke research at Wake Forest University in North Carolina Dr. Toole says that "history is littered with examples of the disastrous consequences of mental illness among statesmen."
A prime example, is the case of President Woodrow Wilson who was incapacitated by a series of strokes. Yet his illness was hidden from the public and he remained in office.
Due to Wilson's illness he was ineffective following WWI. It's believed that his poor judgment resulted in the U.S not joining the League of Nations. And a weakened League was unable to stop Germany's expansion into other countries in the thirties. In effect, Wilson's strokes may have helped trigger WWII.
John F. Kennedy suffered from Addisons's Disease, and required constant injections of cortisone and other drugs. This condition can produce severe distortions of memory and behaviour. Yet the American public was never advised of this problem.
Churchill's doctors were well aware of his "Black Dog of Depression" which he fought while also conducting the Battle of Britain. Later Churchill and Roosevelt were both seriously ill during the Yalta conference and were outwitted by a mentally alert Stalin.
More recently, we were aware but may never know whether President Ronald Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease while still in office.
If Dr. Toole's idea were to be implemented several world leaders would have to be tested, such as our own Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac of France, Ariel Sharon of Israel and Jiang Zemin of China to name a few.
I think Dr. Toole's suggestion makes sense. After all, we ask airline pilots to undergo extensive testing and they only have a few hundred people in their hands.
The prospect of mad leaders triggering nuclear war may provoke images of Dr. Strangelove. But the reality is that many wars have been traced to the mental instability of a few individuals. Consider the number of people who died because of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot who was slightly unhinged, or Adolph Hitler a megalomaniac.
Closer to home I think it's time the Canadian Medical Association promoted this idea. A video tape of a few parliamentary debates would surely indicate who are the most likely candidates for testing. Unfortunately it might include all of members of parliament. And it's also likely that many would fail the test if it included common sense questions.
What an interesting scenario! To send all current politicians packing! We could then extend Dr Toole's proposal by making all future politicians pass a common sense and mental stability test prior to being eligible to run for public office. Can you imagine what this could do for our country?
|MORE COLUMNS BY DR. GIFFORD-JONES|