Biden 'fit for duty,' physical 'identified no new concerns,' his doctor says

Polls show a majority of Americans think he's too old to serve a second term.

February 28, 2024, 4:34 PM

President Joe Biden underwent his annual physical Wednesday morning at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in what could be the final health update before the November election.

Biden, 81, last received his physical on Feb. 16, 2023.

A written summary of the physical released Wednesday afternoon from Dr. Kevin O'Connor, the president's physician, said "the President feels well" and that the test "identified no new concerns."

"President Biden is a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those as Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander in Chief," he said.

He "continues to be fit for duty and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations," he said.

At an event early Wednesday afternoon, Biden gave reporters two thumbs-up and smiled when asked how his physical had gone, saying, "everything's squared away."

"There's nothing different from last year," he said, adding "everything's great."

President Joe Biden walks out of the White House in Washington, Feb. 28, 2024, to board Marine One for a short trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Andrew Harnik/AP

The summary said "the most notable interval history for this past year was the incorporation of Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) into the President's sleeping routine."

He noted Biden has experienced symptoms consistent with sleep apnea in the past. "Given the importance of efficient sleep for anyone, but certainly for a senior executive, we revisited the issue this past spring, and conducted a formal sleep study. This study confirmed my suspicion that the President would benefit from optimizing his sleep efficiency with PAP," O'Connor said.

In 2023, O'Connor described Biden as a "healthy, vigorous 80-year-old man" who was "fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency." He did note that the president's gait had stiffened compared to the previous year, saying it was likely the cause of "wear and tear" on the spine, but did not result in "root nerve compression significant enough to warrant any specific treatment."

The president also had a small skin lesion removed from his chest and a biopsy confirmed it was basal cell carcinoma and "all cancerous tissue was successfully removed." Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and roughly 3 to 5 million cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to JAMA Dermatology.

First lady Jill Biden also had two similar cancerous lesions removed in January 2023 from her face and chest.

Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans are concerned Biden is too old to serve a second term and believe that he has declined cognitively and physically.

A Quinnipiac University poll published on Feb. 21 showed that 67% of voters think Biden is "too old to effectively serve another 4-year term as president while 62% said Biden did not have the "physical fitness to serve a second presidential term" and 62% said he does not have the "mental fitness to serve a second presidential term."

An overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed in an ABC News/Ipsos poll published Feb. 11 think Biden is too old to serve another term.

According to the poll, conducted using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, 86% of Americans think Biden, 81, is too old to serve another term as president. That figure includes 59% of Americans who think both he and former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, are too old and 27% who think only Biden is too old.

There were no details about any kind of cognitive exam conducted by Dr. O'Connor last year or the kind of "mental competency tests" that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has called for.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has dismissed the idea of Biden taking a cognitive test during his physical, saying Dr. O'Connor does not believe it's "warranted because of just who [Biden] is as president of the United States and everything that he has to deal with."

"The president proves every day how he operates, how he thinks," she said earlier this month. "That is how Dr. O'Connor sees it."

She repeated as much on Wednesday, telling ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that "the president does not need a cognitive test."

When pressed on why the president's physician wouldn't administer a mental fitness test to quell concerns given all the scrutiny of his age, she said, "The doctor doesn't believe that he needs one ... if you look at what a clinical cognitive test actually is, it is a 15-minute appointment," adding that "every day" the president does work that is "more rigorous than it would be for any 15-minute clinical appointment."

She said he passes a cognitive test "every day as he moves from one topic, to another topic, to another topic, trying, understanding the granular level of these topics," she said. "This is a very rigorous job, and the president has been able to do this job every day for the past three years."

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