Biden ‘continues to be fit for duty’ amid age questions, doctor says

President Joe Biden‘s physician says the 81-year-old chief executive “continues to be fit for duty” after he completed his annual physical at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday.

In a memorandum distributed by the White House press office, Physician to the President Dr Kevin O’Connor summarised his findings by stating that Mr Biden is “a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, ot include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief”.

Dr O’Connor also reported that Mr Biden’s “stable and well-controlled” medical conditions include “obstructive sleep apnea, a-fib with normal ventricular response, hyperlipidemia, gastroesophageal reflux, seasonal allergies, spinal arthritis and sensory peripheral neuropathy of the feet,” for which he takes prescription and over-the-counter medications including Eliquis (an anti-coagulant), Crestor (a statin for cholesterol control), the nasal spray Dymista, as well as Allegra, Pepcid and Nexium.

“The president feels wel and this year's physical identified no new concerns. He continues to be fit for duty and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations,” he said.

Mr Biden had told reporters he would be undergoing the examination before he travelled to the Navy-operated facility in Bethesda, Maryland on Wednesday, departing by helicopter at 9.06am and landing at the hospital’s helipad nine minutes later.

A White House official confirmed that Mr Biden’s visit to the hospital was “for his routine annual physical” and promised that his physician would release a written summary of the findings afterwards. The president finished the exam just before noon after spending over two and a half hours at the facility before returning to the White House via motorcade.

Speaking to reporters several hours later at an event to discuss his administration’s crime-fighting efforts, the president responded to questions about his physical with a joke.

“They think I look too young,” he said.

He added a more substantive answer shortly after, telling reporters there was “nothing different than last year” about the results.

“I’m alright, everything is squared away,” he said. “Everything’s great.”

Mr Biden, 81, is the oldest person to ever serve as America’s chief executive.

A lifelong teetotaler and nonsmoker, he is known to exercise regularly, but he has had some health issues in recent years, including spinal arthritis that has caused him to exhibit a stiff gait and skin cancer lesions that were removed from his chest last March.

In a memorandum released by the press office at the time, Dr O’Connor said a biopsy had “confirmed that the small lesion” removed from Mr Biden “was basal cell carcinoma” and noted that “no further treatment was required” after the lesion was removed.

President Biden arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (EPA)
President Biden arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (EPA)

Now, a year later, the physician said Mr Biden underwent a full-body examination that detected no areas that required a biopsy to determine whether a recurrence of the skin cancer had occured.

The president’s age and a number of high-profile verbal slips and gaffes have led many voters to express concern about whether he is physically and mentally up to the job.

In his report, Dr O’Connor said an “extremely detailed neurologic exam” had been “reassuring,” with “no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder,” such as “stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or ascending lateral sclerosis”.

But the White House has repeatedly declined too make Dr O’Connor available to discuss Mr Biden’s physical condition with reporters, instead claiming that the annual memorandum he issues should be sufficient information for assuaging any concerns over the president’s health or age.

Pressed on the reasons for not making the president’s phyisician available for questions, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre offered a meandering, stem-winding explanation, touching at times on Dr O’Connor’s past military service, as well as the presence of as many as 20 other medical personnel who assisted with Mr Biden’s annual examination.

She also falsely claimed that there was “no precedent” for Dr O’Connor to appear in the briefing room even though one of his predecessor’s, then-US Navy Admiral Dr Ronny Jackson, spent over an hour answering questions on then-president Donald Trump’s physical exam results in January 2018.

“What Dr O’Connor has done is he has put forward over the last two years, a comprehensive, robust — robust memo ... that is sent to me and then obviously we disseminate to all of you that lays out — lays out in parts of the President’s physical and I think that’s important. It is — it is robust and it is comprehensive,” she said.