John McCain, the Republican candidate who lost the battle for US Presidency to Barack Obama, did not reveal his malignant melanoma diagnosis, despite happily revealing his medical records from Vietnam.
Lord David Owen, a trained doctor and member of the House of Lords, has called for world leaders to be more open about their health, as millions of people are affected by the decisions of people in high public office
Thus, such politicians have a responsibility towards the general public to ensure that their health would not hinder any decision they need to make, as they head a public office.
No one has to stand for high public office, "if potential candidates knew they faced independent assessment and that they had a health problem then they would either not stand or they would make it public of their own volition," BMJ quoted him as saying.
Owen said that many heads of governments and their personal doctors fail to share the truth about their illness and thus had to receive inferior medical treatment.
He gave the example of Francois Mitterrand was President of France, who kept his cancer of the prostate and secondaries in the bone secret for 11 years, and his personal doctor made monthly public statements about his health without even giving an inkling of his true medical condition.
He urged that, when in office, leaders should be obliged to have an annual independent health check to ensure that they are fit for office and are able to step down temporarily or permanently if their illness is affecting their capacity to do the job.
He gave another instance-in 1998, the Prime Minister of Norway suffered a severe depressive reaction and offered to resign.
However, after talking to the Foreign Minister, he publicly announced that he was suffering from depression, and he returned to work after four weeks of treatment and adapting his working practices.
The decision had heightened the stature of the PM in the eyes of many Norwegians and helped lessen the stigma surrounding mental health.
Owen claimed that the above example is the right way to lessen prejudice and generate greater public understanding of illness.
He concluded by saying that a greater openness would not necessarily preclude someone with an illness from convincing their party and the public that they are fit for office.