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Politics Life Sci. 2003 Mar;22(1):2-13.

Coping with presidential disability: the proposal for a standing medical commission.

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303 Meserve Hall, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


On June 29, 2002, President George W. Bush invoked the United States Constitution's Twenty-Fifth Amendment, ratified in 1967. By so doing, he helped focus attention on the amendment's two disability provisions, Sections 3 and 4. Section 3 provides for voluntary transfer of power from the president to the vice president and is wholly dependent on the president's wishes. Section 4 provides for involuntary transfers of power, possibly over the president's objection. This controversial provision allows a vice president, with the assent of a majority of the cabinet, to become acting president. Critics have long argued that the vice president and cabinet officers, since they all owe their positions to the president, may be excessively reluctant to act even when action clearly is warranted. Therefore, some of these critics have proposed that a presidential disability commission be established at the beginning of every administration either to act under Section 4 in place of the cabinet or to provide formal and regular medical assessments so as to press for action in the event of presidential inability. I argue that such proposals are unwise and that their implementation would be counterproductive and even dangerous, both to the presidency and to the nation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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