An interesting letter-article by Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio was published online on 19 October 2015 in Rappler, in which the writer challenged presidential contender, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, to produce her medical record showing that she is in fact completely clear of her stage IV cancer, as she claims. Dr. Claudio believes that the senator owes it to be square with the Filipino people by clarifying and proving her claim, in view of the grave nature of her ailment and in light of the sensitive position she is running for.
Dr. Claudio’s concerns are legitimate. Although being physically healthy is not a legal qualification to run for president, it is imperative that the same be disclosed publicly so that the voters can properly consider the same in deciding whether or not to cast their lot with the senator. To be sure, an untimely incapacitation or demise of the top leader will not augur well for the stability of government.
MD Health.Com provided a background on the nature of stage IV cancer (also referred to as the “metastasized”, or “distant spread” stage) and its survivability rate. It explained that, “[t]umors in this stage may be of any size, affecting nearby lymph nodes and showing evidence of spread (metastasis) to other organs or regions of the body. A secondary cancer may develop during this stage. The overall physical and mental health of the patient may be affected and survival rate is very low.” It further explained that, for stage IV lung cancer patients, the survival rate over a five-year period is 50%, which means that for every 100 patients only 50 will live for 5 years after the diagnosis, while the rest will probably die within that span of time. (http://www.md-health.com/Stage-4-Cancer.html)
Based on the above literature, therefore, it can be seen that Miriam’s chance of surviving stage IV lung cancer is equal to her chance of succumbing to it within five years from the supposed diagnosis thereof last year. Hence, it must be duly medically proven that she is in fact clear of stage IV lung cancer, as she claims, not only at the moment but also that there is nil chance of relapse during the six years needed for her to completely discharge the heavy responsibilities of a president should she be chosen to assume the role.
Disappointingly, even though the claim came from Miriam herself, she refused to reveal her medical record to prove it by insisting on her and her doctor’s right to privacy. She also tries to put the ball back in Dr. Claudio’s court by saying that it is the latter’s burden to prove that she is ill.
Here goes the good senator again. If she indeed overcame that lethal stage of cancer, we do not see any reason why she would be edgy about Dr. Claudio’s challenge. On the contrary, she should welcome the opportunity to share her triumph over that deadly illness, bordering as it does on the miraculous considering that she allegedly was able to battle it sans radical treatment.
As to the matter of her privacy, it should be noted that Miriam is the one who is claiming that she is now physically fit after she announced only a year ago that she has stage IV lung cancer. Being in possession of, or at least having the access to, her medical record, it behooves her to prove the veracity of her claim, it being fundamental in evidentiary law that she who asserts the positive side of an issue has the burden of proving the same. Thus, in proving that she is indeed cancer-free, all that she needs to do is simply to produce her medical record on which she based her assertion, to show that such is indeed the case.
As to her doctor’s privacy, suffice it to say that the same is definitely not in issue. Besides, why would she put more premium to her doctor’s privacy over the need to prove the truthfulness of her claim? Being a legal expert, Miriam knows for a fact that although her doctor may not be compelled to reveal any information he might have obtained in the course of his management of her medical condition, under the so-called doctor-patient privilege, she herself is totally free to waive confidentiality by getting from that doctor her medical record and showing it to the public in the interest of truth and fairness, and if only to extirpate any question as to the seriousness or sincerity of her claim.
The question of Miriam’s sense of seriousness is not without basis, you see. As a senator-judge at Erap’s impeachment trial, she was quoted as saying then that she would jump head first from a helicopter should Pres. Estrada be removed from office. As everyone knows, that removal came to pass, but not her promise. When the media pressed her to explain why she had not delivered on it, she flatly said, “I lied”.
Of course, many would say that her said “promise” was merely a tongue-in-cheek statement that should not be taken at face value, more so seriously. But that is exactly one of the problems with Miriam: One cannot readily decide which among her statements is worth taking seriously. With her adamance to reveal her true state of health through her medical record, we could only hope that it is she, and not her health condition, that is really serious, and pray at the same time that her unsupported assertion of alleged good health is not just another tongue-in-cheek statement.