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America grapples with Donald Trump’s latest medical obsession - is the president risking his own life?

What are his US Secret Service agents going to do?

America’s elite presidential bodyguards have a solemn duty to protect the commander-in-chief at all costs.

But what happens when the president holds such bizarre views on the science of the virus that he is prepared to self-medicate and potentially endanger his own life?

That appears to be the surreal situation we are currently in.

Trump says he's been taking the drug for just over a week. Credit: AP

Donald Trump admitted on Monday night that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for the last 10 days.

This is a drug for malaria that he has been heavily promoting for many weeks as a miracle cure for Covid-19.

The problem is not just that there is no evidence it works (certainly not as a preventative medicine), but that it’s potentially harmful.

One study shows it can cause an irregular heartbeat in vulnerable patients.

America’s own public health guidelines are that it shouldn’t be taken as a treatment for Covid outside of a highly controlled hospital environment.

The president’s personal doctor didn’t recommend hydroxychloroquine but in a letter released overnight he walked a tightrope saying that he had agreed to prescribe it.

The letter from White House doctor Sean Conley to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany about President Donald Trump taking hydroxychloroquine. Credit: AP Photo/Jon Elswick

Trump has already explored in public the idea of injecting a disinfectant and using light therapy.

It’s true that he didn’t recommend such therapies, merely posed questions to the country’s top experts about their potential value.

But still, this is pretty wacky stuff.

It might even be funny if the president was just a marginal figure in the pandemic response and such actions had no consequence.

But America is about to cross a grim threshold - 100,000 deaths from this virus.

Trump is advocating for the rapid opening up of the American economy.

That can be argued as a legitimate position given the collateral economic and social distress that the lockdown is causing.

But that debate surely can only be had if there is a sense that the president is a rational figure carefully evaluating the scientific evidence.

Not even many Republicans believe that any more.

As for Democrats?

The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was quick to point out that the President is 73 and obese - and has a day job - and perhaps shouldn’t be self-medicating.

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As for those secret service agents?

Goodness knows what they’re thinking as the man they are sworn to protect swallows the hydroxychloroquine pills.

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