HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Dr. Mehmet Oza Republican candidate for the US Senate in Pennsylvania, released his medical records maneuvers to keep questions about the recovery of Democratic challenger John Fetterman at bay from the beginning and in the center of the hot campaign.
Dr. Rebecca Kurth of New York wrote in a four-page letter obtained by The Associated Press that she found the 62-year-old heart surgeon-turned-television-celebrity in “excellent health” during an annual check-up Thursday.
The letter noted that Oz’s total cholesterol was “borderline elevated” but unchanged, and mentioned hyperplastic lesions — growths of cells that can become cancerous — removed from his colon in 2011. An electrocardiogram — a test that records electrical signals in the heart to detect heart problems — came back normal Thursday.
“Your exam is healthy and your blood work is favorable,” Kurt wrote. She did not recommend medication.
The release of the medical records comes as Oz tries to close a gap in the polls and has increasingly made Fetterman’s fitness a central issue in his campaign.
Fetterman, 53, has been silent on releasing medical records or giving reporters access to his doctors’ interviews more than four months after he suffered a stroke in May that lasting effects on his speech and hearing.
Fetterman’s company did not immediately comment Friday.
The presidential battleground race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey could help determine control of the deeply divided Senate, and Democrats see it as perhaps their best chance to pick up a seat among only a handful of close races in the country.
While it is customary for presidential candidates to release health certificates, there is no such custom for US Senate elections. Some US senators have released medical records in the past when they ran for president.
In a statement, Oz said he was releasing his medical records in the interest of transparency and that “voters should have full transparency when it comes to the health status of candidates running for office.”
Oz, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, also questioned Fetterman’s veracity in revealing the lingering effects of his stroke.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, says doctors expect him to make a full recovery from his stroke and that he is improving rapidly, cognitively intact and maintaining the healthiest habits of his life.
Fetterman suffered a stroke on May 13, four days before easily winning the Democratic primary. His victory came hours after he underwent surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. Three weeks after Fetterman’s stroke revealed that he “almost died” and released a statement from his cardiologist saying he had a serious and potentially fatal heart condition.
Fetterman has campaigned and spoken at public events, but avoids reporters, occasionally slurring his words, occasionally slurring a word and struggling to hear over the background noise and take in what he hears quickly. He recently agreed to one debate against Ozwhich will take place on October 25, although Oz insisted on more.
Publicly, top Democrats, including President Joe Biden, did tried to calm party nerves about Fetterman’s condition, saying they had spoken with him and were confident he was fit to serve.
Still, Fetterman has given reporters limited access to question him directly, doing only a handful of interviews since the stroke, all via video with subtitles to help him process his hearing.
In the 2016 Illinois Senate race, Democrat Tammy Duckworth released years of medical records amid questions about the fitness of Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke in 2012.
Kirk was still suffering from the effects of the stroke four years later and, like Fetterman, denied access to his doctors and medical records. Still, Duckworth said during the debate that she thinks Kirk is capable of doing the job, but “the problem is he doesn’t.”
At the end of the race, Kirk’s campaign released a one-page letter from his treating physician that said the senator had made a “full cognitive recovery” but was still slurred while dealing with limited use of his left leg and inability to use his left arm, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time.
Kirk eventually lost his re-election bid.
Follow Mark Levy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timelywriter.