why psychiatrists are keeping mum

mumThere’s a reason the psychiatric profession is reluctant to weigh in on the mental health of presidential candidates. It’s called the Goldwater Rule, named after the scary Arizona senator who ran for President against Lyndon Johnson. And lost.

Way back in 1964 a magazine called Fact sent a survey to more than 12,000 psychiatrists with a single question: “Do you believe Barry Goldwater is psychologically fit to serve as president of the United States?” When results were tallied:

9,939 hadn’t responded
571 said they didn’t know enough to answer
657 declared him fit
1,189 answered ‘no’ and some elaborated in unflattering language.

The September / October issue of the magazine spun those results into the headline “FACT: 1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to Be President!” The text included terms like ‘paranoid’ and ‘dangerous lunatic.’ One respondent came right out and said Goldwater had “a stronger identification to his mother than to his father” — deeply insulting in 1964, apparently.

Goldwater sued. Goldwater won. Fact magazine went belly up. And the American Psychiatric Association (APA) drafted Section 7.3 of the APA’s Principles of Medical Ethics, which reads:

rules“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.”

These days psychiatrists still pipe up with opinions and conjecture, but they’re very careful to couch their words in generalities and non-specifics. Their remarks are usually prefaced with a version of, ‘Although I’ve never examined Mr. Trump …’

I guess it’s up to me then. Fine, I’ll say it: Donald Trump is a dangerous lunatic with a stronger identification to his mother than to his father. There. Sue me, you short-fingered gasbag.


copyright © 2016 little ittys

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