'Arm-chair' diagnosis of Trump unethical, irresponsible

Thursday, January 11, 2018
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

CNN report on Trump's mental stabilityPresident Trump is getting a medical exam on Friday – something people hope will provide answers not only as to his physical health but his mental health.

Some critics of the president – liberal and otherwise – want to know if President Trump is unstable. Such concerns or opinions are not new; his mental stability was a topic of discussion long before he moved into the Oval Office. Recently, however, Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee testified to members of Congress about Trump's mental fitness.

Following is an excerpt from CNN's report on Lee's testimony:

"Lee made it clear that she is not in a position to diagnose the President, or any public figure, from afar. But she said that it is incumbent on medical professionals to intervene in instances where there is a danger to an individual or the public. She argues that signs the President has exhibited have risen to that level of danger."

OneNewsNow contacted Dr. Joseph Guthrie, a general and forensic psychiatrist – not to see whether the president is ill, but to inquire about the dangers of a medical professional giving an opinion without having had a one-on-one evaluation.

"This concern about psychiatrists and other mental health professionals making arm-chair opinions to the public about political figures does have a very long history in U.S. politics," Guthrie said. "More often than not, people are going to bring up the 'Goldwater Rule' that's been established in the ethics rules of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)."

That rule essentially forbids psychiatric professionals from offering their professional opinion about public figures without (1) an examination and (2) the permission of that individual.

"There has been a back and forth about whether psychiatrists who are offering their unsolicited opinion about the mental fitness of the president are exercising their First Amendment rights or is it something else," Guthrie continues.

therapist sign"In fact, the president of the American Psychiatric Association back in August 2016 noted that there is this arm-chair psycho-analyzing of political candidates, but she thought it was both unethical and irresponsible. And I would agree with that because there is potential repercussions for what mental health professionals say that sort of go beyond any just political leanings – and certainly there is usually not enough data to really give an informed opinion."

As to Dr. Lee's implied "duty to warn" of impending danger, the APA states: "The duty to warn is a legal concept which varies from state to state, but which generally requires psychiatrists to breach the confidentiality of the therapeutic session when a risk of danger to others becomes known during treatment of the patient. It does not apply if there is no physician-patient relationship."

Has President Trump lost his mind – or has CNN lost its bearing?
(Related commentary by Dr. Michael L. Brown)

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