Dr Brendan Kelly on breaking the Goldwater Rule
Following a Johns Hopkins’ University professor’s assertion that US President Trump has ‘malignant narcissism‘, Dr Brendan Kelly spoke to George Hook on Newstalk about the ethics of commenting on a persons mental state without a proper examination.
This issue cropped up when Barry Goldwater ran for US president in 1964. A magazine called Fact ran a survey asking mental health professionals if Goldwater was fit for office or not. The magazine published their findings and Goldwater sued them. Following this the American Psychiatric Association introduced the Goldwater Rule which clearly stated that psychiatrists and mental health professionals cannot comment on the mental health of a public figure. They cannot comment publicly on someone they haven’t seen, they don’t have all the necessary information, and it is a violation of the Code of Ethics:
The “Goldwater Rule:”
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.” – Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry
Dr Kelly stated that the Goldwater Rule held pretty well until last year, when there was a sudden ‘breaking of ranks’ for all people to comment on certain politicians. It was so widespread that the American Psychiatric Association put out an additional statement on the Goldwater Rule:
“Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.”