‘Death not dependent on bad health’

THE Zambia Medical Associ- ation (ZMA) says it is cheap politicking to demand that presidential candidates un- dergo medical tests because a clean bill of health does not guarantee longevity of life as death or incapacity can arise from sudden causes other

than sickness.

ZMA president Aaron Mujajati said although it was encouraging to note that presidential candi- dates in this month’s presidential election agree that a medical cer- tificate was essential for all those seeking the highest office in the country, he noted that the whole exercise risked losing its true val-

ue if subjected to cheap politick- ing.

“If this opportunity is not man- aged properly, it will degenerate into a state where presidential candidates and presidents hes- itate to inform the public about past and present medical condi- tions for fear of negatively influ- encing voters and providing their

opponents with an opportunity to attack their fitness to lead,” Dr Mujajati said.

He said although the desire for candidates and presidents to with- hold evidence of illness would be understandable, it would increase the perception of its significance among members of the public.

There have been widespread

concerns on the health of presi- dential candidates in the current campaigns following the death of two incumbent presidents within a space of six years.

Dr Mujajati said the presidency was such a stressful position that it had the potential to influence ill- ness or even worsen pre-existing ailment(s) and health status.

“Considering the history of de- bilitating illnesses among past presidents, and the frequent de- ception applied to hide or mini- mize its presence, it is clear that the health status of presidential candidates will continue to attract the strong interest of the media and the public.

“How do we balance the can- didates’ right to privacy with the legitimate needs of the electorate to know their conditions that may affect performance as Republican President, and who should be re- sponsible for the evaluation of the “medical qualifications” of a can- didate?” he asked. PF president Edgar Lungu was reported to have challenged Chongwe Member of Parliament to a medical test to as- certain who was healthier between the two of them, following her statement that the country should not vote for Mr Lungu because they did not want another funeral.

And Dr Mujajati also inquired what would happen to the medical records of losing presidential can- didates as well as what specifically constituted presidential disability and inability and when and how precisely to invoke the law.

“These considerations clearly demonstrate that we must guard against the tyranny of the urgent because laws that are made in haste are often interpreted in jest.

ZMA has therefore appealed to stakeholders such as the Law As- sociation of Zambia, the Church, and the media to help create standards which could be used to guide presidential candidates’ medical tests and records and the rules of disclosure. The medical association has called for a na- tional policy that should balance a candidate’s privacy with the public’s right to know, as the risk of rushing could expose sensitive information that may cause stig- matisation from the voters.

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