Political concerns often compromise the delivery of high quality medical care in ways that can be both problematic and dangerous for political leaders. President John F. Kennedy's medical care offers a particularly rich exposition of the many ways in which these dynamics can play out and how additional factors can complicate matters, such as when the patient is himself duplicitous, when family members try to intervene in care, and when public exposure risks political future. This article examines the politics and management of Kennedy's medical conditions by the various physicians involved in his care and explores how these considerations may have compromised not only the quality of his care but, in turn, exerted an influence on his behavior. This happened not only through the downstream effect of his treatment on his thoughts and behavior but also through the tremendous allocation of time and attention that his care required—attention a healthier man would have been able to direct toward problems of greater national concern.
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Vol. 33 • No. 2