William Malcolm

Do Czech Voters Have a Right to Know Presidents Health?

  • Rumours about Miloš Zeman’s illnesses are repulsive.
  • But they make it clear that there should be a system in place so voters know the health of presidential candidates.
  • The voters have a right to know the health of presidential candidates. So that they (to put it harshly) know what they are buying.


The presidential elections are approaching and social media is abuzz with rumour and speculation regarding the health of incumbent presidential candidate Miloš Zeman. This important issue should be analyzed in three ways. Ethically, factually and on a systemic level. The third level is most important and why this topic should be addressed.


First of all, Brno councilman Svatopluk Bártík crossed the line with his repulsive Facebook post stating Zeman has cancer. Unleashing such unsubstantiated rumors is unethical. Especially regarding one’s health. The argument that since Zeman is a liar and spreads rumours, he deserves a taste of his own medicine, is false. Much in the same way a thief justifies his actions by saying others steal as well. A thief is a thief, a liar is a liar and Bartík has gone too far.


The facts agree as well. The first hurried response came from a member of the medical council, Martin Holcát, who in a statement on Lidovky.cz: said “My colleagues carried out a CT scan of the whole body about a month ago, and they said that it is clear. These are some fallacies. I can’t confirm, nor deny anything. I have no information regarding this. But it’s nonsense. I have heard this multiple times now.” The definitive word has come from the president’s doctor, Miloslav Kalaš: “After inspectional, clinical and laboratory examinations, the current medical state of Mr. President in no way confirms the false rumours regarding his serious medical state.” O.K. So maybe we can close this episode, with the police or the court writing the epilogue, since the Castle has sued Bartík and filed a criminal complaint for slander. Which is the right step.


What cannot be closed is the debate concerning system regarding the president’s health state. Because the system is, delicately put, unfortunate. Only the most sensational news from the president reaches the public, such as on Tuesday when he said that “his diabetes has left him”, which is either a miracle or a total nonsense. Why is this a problem? Besides other things, when there is no reliable information regarding the president’s health, there is room for unethical rumours and speculation. If there were reliable and systemic information regarding the president’s health available, the Castle would not have to deal with such (mis)information. There would not be any.


The Castle thinks the medical status of the president is his private matter, which should be kept quiet. But that is not the casre. The president is an official, who has extensive executive privileges. His irreplaceable role can be seen now for example during the government formation. Relevant information regarding a politician’s health with such responsibilities should be a matter of course. It is odd that someone could doubt this. I don’t think anybody would sit ride a bus or a train, which could not guarantee that its drivers are medically fit. Do we really need to debate if medical fitness is necessary for leading the government?


A year ago, Miloš Zeman said he is “the Czech Donald Trump”. It was funny, but alright, let’s take him up on this. He could at least follow the American president in certain things. Trump, like all other American presidents before him, publishes a report on his medical health. He might be criticised that the report is not very detailed, that it has been signed by only one doctor and that his predecessors were more open in this regards, and so on. But still: when comparing medical “reports” from the Prague castle, Trump’s medical report appears meticulous. And let’s not forget that Trump, on first look, looks in very good shape, while Zeman looks… well, a little less so. We recommend taking inspiration from Washington on this matter.


The objection that many of our former presidents (Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Václav Havel) had complicated health and did not exactly provide much information about it, is only so relevant. Nowadays, the president is elected by the citizens, and more over the next elections are almost here. The current president is not only a president, but also a presidential candidate. The voters have a right to know the objective data regarding the health of all the candidates. Why? So that they (to put it harshly) know what they are buying and frankly, if the expiration date is approaching.


For the president (and presidential candidates), an open reliable way of reporting his health is not only a defence against people like Bártík. It is also a proof of political responsibility and respect towards the rules of democratic competitions. Which should in the end be a prerequisite for the future execution of this function.



Source: Hospodarske Noviny