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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Goldwater rule still golden?

All that glitters...   (Photo by AlaskaMining)
Does freedom of speech include making public statements about President Trump’s behavioral patterns?  Maybe if you’re a plumber, maybe not if you’re a psychiatrist.

Back in 1964, the now-defunct Fact Magazine published “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.”  About half of the 2,400 surveyed psychiatrists deemed Goldwater to be “unfit for the job” of United States president.

In today’s comment-on-every-twitch era, “A Special Issue on the Mind of Donald Trump” seems tempting.  But would it be ethical?  The American Psychiatric Association has long said
no.  Especially after Goldwater won $75,000 in a 1966 libel suit against Fact Magazine.

But what about freedom of speech and speaking truth to power?  Is silence always that golden?  Many of today's psychiatrists are balking at this “Goldwater Rule.”  If every Tom, Dick and Harry can be googled by prospective employers, why can’t presidents be similarly scrutinized?

The crux lies in the role of psychiatrists.  Alleged experts in human motivation and behavior, their opinions can especially influence public mood.  But then again, so do the proclamations of athletes, authors and entertainers, many of whom “diagnose” from afar.

Although the APA still insists that it is “unethical and irresponsible… to offer professional opinions on people who were not properly evaluated,” Los Angeles psychiatrist Lance Dodes begs to differ.  He states:  The APA is not protecting Donald Trump; they’re protecting themselves.


Copyright June 28, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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