Tsongas calls for health disclosure by presidential candidates


BOSTON -- Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, who acknowledged that he is suffering a recurrence of lymph gland cancer, is calling on all future presidential candidates to disclose their complete medical history.

"I have come to the painful conclusion that there is no way around full medical disclosure," Mr. Tsongas said yesterday. "Anything less than full disclosure is politically impossible at the presidential level."

Mr. Tsongas called on President-elect Bill Clinton to appoint a special commission to define what should constitute full medical disclosure for presidential candidates. Mr. Tsongas was the first person to have run for president of the United States after having been treated for cancer.

Mr. Tsongas, who left the U.S. Senate in 1984 after his initial diagnosis of lymphoma, said he and his advisers made "mistakes" during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the selective way they handled disclosure of an earlier recurrence of his lymphoma in the spring of 1987.

Mr. Tsongas insisted that there was no attempt to hide the earlier relapse, which was successfully treated with radiation. However, he and others in his campaign did not consistently mention the 1987 recurrence, which came seven months after he underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant for lymphoma in 1986.

During his presidential primary campaigns, Mr. Tsongas stressed his good health and vigor to counter the public's misconceptions and fears about cancer.

"I think if we had to do it again, we would do it differently," Mr. Tsongas said at a crowded news conference at the offices of his law firm, Foley, Hoag and Elliot.

At the same time, he bitterly attacked the news media, and the Boston Globe in particular, for recent stories he said gave the impression "that there was an attempt to hide the cancerous lymph node in 1987."

"That is simply not true," Mr. Tsongas said.

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