TALLAHASSEE, FLA. -- Former senator Lawton Chiles (D), his campaign for governor dogged by questions about his mental health, has released medical records that said he did not contemplate suicide during his bouts with depression.
Chiles, 60, released the inch-thick collection of records Monday after calls for disclosure from his opponent in next month's Democratic gubernatorial primary.
At a news conference at which the records were released, Chiles's physician, Karl Hempel, said the former senator has been treated for depression since 1987. The condition, which afflicts an estimated 4 percent of the adult U.S. population, can be debilitating and lead to suicide, but Chiles is less severely affected, the doctor said.
"He's never been suicidal from the very start," said Hempel. "I would definitely not tell him to retire. He doesn't have anything that is even close to being disabling."
Chiles is running against Rep. Bill Nelson, 47, for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 4 primary. Nelson's running mate for lieutenant governor, Tom Gustafson, suggested Chiles could be suicidal as governor but later apologized for the remark.
Campaigning Monday, Chiles said the records "should put an end" to questions about his mental and physical health.
Nelson and Republican Gov. Bob Martinez had earlier released complete medical records, and Nelson repeatedly urged Chiles to do so.
The medical documents dating to 1966 showed that in 1987, Chiles complained of insomnia and loss of appetite and sex drive -- common symptoms of depression. He was treated with the antidepressant doxepin. A month later, Chiles made the surprise announcement that he wouldn't seek a fourth Senate term.
In the evaluation, Dr. R.J. Pentzien, a psychiatrist at Bethesda Naval Hospital, wrote: "There was no history of suicidal ideation, plan or intent."
Chiles was switched to the popular new antidepressant Prozac in 1989 by Hempel. The drug's makers deny claims in several lawsuits that it can spur suicidal tendencies.