Don’t Question Donald Trump’s Mental Health … At Least Not if You’re a Psychiatrist

Trump via screengrab With all of the controversial statements that Donald Trump has made during his Presidential campaign, people have begun to speculate about his mental health. Not just jests, like, “He must be crazy.” People are actually trying to diagnose the guy.

Democratic Representative Karen Bass went to far as to start a petition claiming that Trump might have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and that Republicans should make Trump get a psychological evaluation “to determine his mental fitness for the job.”

But the American Psychiatric Association is warning professionals not to join in. This has been an issue during elections since 1964, when Fact magazine published the results of a survey they took of psychiatrists, asking whether Republican Presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater was psychologically fit for the position. 2,417 people responded, with 1,189 saying no. Goldwater lost to President Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.

The ethical issue was raised that professionals should not weigh in with any kind of evaluation without ever examining the subject. In 1973, the “Goldwater Rule” was published in the Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry. It states:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

Dr. Maria A. Oquendo, president of the APA, published an article telling her fellow doctors that “[t]he unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible.” Oquendo added that breaking the rule is potentially stigmatizing, and warned that if they did so, their patients may lose faith in them as well.


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