CLOSINGS: View Closings

Gupta: Trump's alleged dictated letter unethical

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses the recent reporting that alleges then-candidate Trump dictated a health letter released in 2015 by Dr. Harold Bornstein on Anderson Cooper 360.

Posted: May 2, 2018 4:38 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 4:38 PM

Claims by President Donald Trump's former physician that the President's representatives essentially forced him to surrender Trump's medical records to them raise a number of questions about whether the doctor or others violated the law or principles of ethics, legal and medical ethics experts say.

So too do the physician's claims that Trump dictated the doctor's glowing 2015 letter about the then-candidate's health, a letter that Trump's presidential campaign released to the public, the experts say.

Dr. Harold Bornstein, who served as Trump's physician for more than three decades, told NBC News and CNN that three men claiming to represent Trump -- including Trump's former longtime personal bodyguard and confidant, a Trump Organization chief legal officer and a third "large man" -- entered his New York office in February 2017 and demanded the records.

He told CNN that he was "robbed" and described it as a raid.

Whether the records' release violated laws or medical ethics depends on what exactly happened -- including whether the doctor surrendered the originals and didn't retain a copy, and whether Trump had authorized the release to the three who took them, experts say.

The three would have needed a signed authorization from Trump -- and if they didn't have one, disclosing the documents to them would have violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, experts said.

"What Dr. Bornstein described may be a HIPAA violation by the doctor himself," said Erin C. Fuse Brown, a Georgia State University associate professor of law. "It is his obligation as health care provider to ensure patient records are locked, encrypted and secured, so someone couldn't just walk in off the street and demand them.

"It's unclear whether the individuals who came to obtain the President's medical records were agents of the President or his authorized legal representatives. The physician should not have given over a patient's records without a signed authorization."

The White House and a separate source familiar with the handover of Trump's medical records disputed Bornstein's description of the incident.

"As is standard operating procedure, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the President's medical records," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters this week.

A person familiar with the episode, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, believes Bornstein was presented with a letter from the White House physician's office requesting the release.

'A problem' if doctor kept no copy

That source told CNN that the handover had been completed peacefully, complicated only by Bornstein's fumbling with his photocopy machine to make copies of the records.

Early last year, the same person said, Trump saw or heard his former doctor talking about his medical history and asked that his medical records be retrieved from Bornstein's office.

In his NBC interview, the New York doctor claimed the records incident occurred February 3, 2017, two days after he told The New York Times that Trump takes Propecia, a prostate drug often prescribed for hair loss.

The encounter lasted 20 minutes or less, the person said. After Bornstein failed in several attempts to photocopy the file, one of the men asked for the original copies, which were handed to him, according to the source.

New York law requires physicians to maintain records for six years, said Mark Rothstein, a law and bioethics professor at the University of Louisville.

If Bornstein gave away the originals without having paper or electronic copies on hand, "that's a problem," Rothstein said.

Doctors are required to keep records for a length of time for the benefit of patients and regulatory agencies, which might want to examine a doctor's prescription habits or how he or she was treating patients, Rothstein said.

But generally, experts said, only a complaint by the patient -- in this case, Trump, who ostensibly wanted the documents -- would trigger legal action.

Letter dictation would be grounds for investigation, expert says

Separately, Bornstein told CNN that Trump dictated his public letter about the then-candidate's health in 2015.

"His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary," reads Bornstein's letter, which was released by Trump's campaign in December 2015. "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

The missive didn't offer much medical evidence for those claims beyond citing a blood pressure of 110/65, described by the letter as "astonishingly excellent." It claimed that Trump had lost 15 pounds over the preceding year. And it described his cardiovascular health as "excellent."

Such a dictation, if it happened, would be "completely unprofessional" and grounds for the state medical board to investigate and possibly discipline the doctor, said Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine.

"No. 1, why would you let your patient dictate an assessment of his health?" Caplan asked. "And two, you know it's going to be used in the political campaign, and so it's a very important report.

"(If true), you signed it; you wrote it; you lied. It's not professional conduct."

If that's his only violation, the board could essentially give the doctor a warning, Caplan said.

"But they should look, because it could be the tip of the iceberg. You don't know what else he's done," Caplan said. "When you are letting your patients declare they are the healthiest patient on Earth, and you sign it, you have gone far off the reservation, I think."

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, said that if it's true, the dictation would also raise questions about what the letter might have omitted about Trump's health.

"If specific things are being (dictated), then what was not in the letter?" Gupta asked.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment about Bornstein's claim about the letter.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 60101

Reported Deaths: 1689
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19057831
Ramsey7444265
Dakota4334104
Anoka3618114
Stearns288620
Washington207744
Nobles17626
Olmsted171823
Scott153218
Mower10992
Rice10298
Blue Earth9115
Wright8695
Carver8413
Clay77940
Sherburne7188
Kandiyohi6891
St. Louis52119
Lyon4263
Todd4242
Freeborn3591
Steele3451
Nicollet33313
Benton3203
Watonwan3080
Winona25916
Crow Wing23214
Beltrami2230
Le Sueur2171
Martin2075
Chisago1991
Otter Tail1933
Goodhue1929
Cottonwood1770
McLeod1730
Pipestone1559
Becker1521
Polk1504
Waseca1480
Douglas1391
Itasca13812
Unassigned13741
Carlton1350
Pine1290
Dodge1260
Isanti1230
Murray1221
Chippewa1031
Wabasha910
Morrison891
Brown882
Faribault870
Meeker852
Rock830
Sibley832
Jackson810
Koochiching773
Pennington751
Mille Lacs713
Cass692
Fillmore640
Renville635
Lincoln570
Grant533
Swift521
Yellow Medicine520
Roseau470
Pope460
Aitkin401
Houston390
Norman390
Redwood360
Kanabec341
Wilkin343
Hubbard330
Marshall300
Mahnomen261
Wadena260
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake200
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle70
Cook30
Kittson30
Lake of the Woods20

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48398

Reported Deaths: 925
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10223207
Woodbury371652
Black Hawk311566
Linn234887
Johnson206719
Dallas187835
Buena Vista179112
Scott171614
Dubuque166531
Marshall143826
Pottawattamie131426
Story116014
Wapello88133
Muscatine84648
Webster8017
Crawford7273
Sioux6253
Cerro Gordo60917
Warren5571
Tama54929
Jasper47626
Wright4651
Plymouth4579
Dickinson3804
Clinton3793
Louisa37814
Washington29810
Boone2553
Hamilton2461
Franklin23910
Bremer2247
Clarke1993
Emmet1914
Carroll1881
Clay1861
Shelby1831
Hardin1780
Des Moines1692
Marion1690
Poweshiek1578
Benton1551
Allamakee1544
Floyd1532
Jackson1511
Mahaska13917
Cedar1311
Guthrie1315
Jones1302
Buchanan1271
Hancock1222
Butler1212
Henry1203
Madison1182
Pocahontas1152
Lee1133
Lyon1132
Delaware1111
Cherokee1081
Humboldt1081
Harrison1060
Clayton1043
Taylor980
Iowa971
Winneshiek951
Page940
Monona910
Kossuth890
Mills890
Palo Alto840
Sac840
Calhoun832
Jefferson830
Osceola830
Fayette820
Grundy791
Winnebago790
Mitchell780
Union771
Monroe727
Cass711
Worth660
Lucas634
Montgomery594
Davis551
Chickasaw540
Howard490
Appanoose483
Fremont420
Greene410
Keokuk341
Van Buren341
Adair290
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur230
Ringgold211
Wayne191
Adams160
Unassigned70
Rochester
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Mason City
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Austin
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Charles City
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Scattered Storms, Warm & Humid
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Rochester Area Restore celebrates 6 years

Image

Saturday Weather

Image

Grief mask making workshop

Image

Mace's Weather 8/8

Image

Tractor pullers excited to rev up their engines in 2020

Image

Need school supplies? Iowa tax-free weekend on clothes

Image

War hero remembered with motorcycle ride

Image

Families react to RPS's "Return to Learn" plan

Image

Sara's 10pm Forecast- Friday

Image

Giving your best volunteer of the month

Community Events