Don't Tell John McCain to Fight His Cancer

Arthur L. Caplan, PhD


July 25, 2017

People Mean Well, But It's the Wrong Tactic

Here is a sample from Twitter. Barack Obama said, "John McCain is an American hero, and one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it's up against. Give it hell, John." Joe Biden: "He is strong, and he will beat this."

Gabrielle Giffords: "You're tough! You can beat this. Fight, fight, fight!" Mike Pence: "Cancer picked on the wrong guy. John McCain is a fighter, and he'll win this fight too." A bunch of editorials in many newspapers across the nation echoed similar thoughts.

This is advice McCain does not need.

The odds of beating this cancer are long. Whether he does or doesn't has nothing to do with his character or courage. That is not, despite some incredibly disrespectful comments President Trump made about him in the run-up to the presidential election, up for dispute.

McCain is a military hero. The genuine article. The former Navy pilot spent five and a half years in a notorious North Vietnamese prison known as the "Hanoi Hilton," where he spent 2 years in solitary confinement and was brutally tortured despite being severely injured when he bailed out of his plane. Concerned about his fellow prisoners, he would not accept an early release.

Whatever cancer does to John McCain and however he chooses to treat it or not, he is a brave man who is certainly a fighter. As with anyone, he will find his own best path to dealing with a grim diagnosis. Whatever that is, he will remain a hero and a fighter.


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