Views & Reviews Past Caring

The first George W

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 04 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b434
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    When any politician sneezes or mops a brow, flunkies flap in panic and rivals circle greedily. When that politician is leader of the world’s largest democracy, any hint of less than tip top health commands global attention.

    Of America’s 44 presidents so far, eight have died in office, while many have had life threatening episodes, ranging from Franklin D Roosevelt’s paralysing illness (probably polio) to George W Bush’s encounter with a pretzel. But no US president has borne such ill health—nor suffered quite so much at the hands of his doctors—as the first.

    Broad shouldered and more than 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, George Washington (1732-99) battled with no fewer than 10 bouts of …

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