a lesson in ethics
July 26, 2017

Contrary to recent reports, most American psychiatrists have not been given the professional go-ahead to publicly comment on President Trump's mental wellbeing without taking him as a patient and acquiring his permission for their remarks. Twitter is not an ethically acceptable tool of diagnosis.

At issue is "Goldwater Rule," which says "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." The rule was created by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) after 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater won a libel suit against a magazine that reported "1,189 Psychiatrists say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President."

Earlier this month, the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) told members "they should not feel bound" by the rule in regards to Trump, leading to reports that shrinks can now diagnose Trump remotely. But the APsaA is a small organization of just 3,700 members; the APA has 37,000 members with generally higher academic qualifications — and it says the Goldwater Rule is definitely still in play. Bonnie Kristian

March 7, 2016

There's evidence that politicians as a group are more likely to be narcissists than the average person, but that doesn't make it ethical to apply that diagnosis — or any psychiatric label — to a specific candidate without an in-person assessment.

So argues Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry and bioethics at Columbia University, in The New York Times today. He cites the American Psychiatric Association's "Goldwater Rule," which holds that "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."

The rule was implemented following Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign, during which Fact Magazine published an article entitled "1,189 Psychiatrists say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President." The piece described the candidate as "unbalanced," "paranoid," insufficiently manly, and more. Goldwater launched a libel suit and won, though he still lost the presidency.

Today, Klitzman says, the same principle still applies, no matter how tempting it is to offer a remote diagnosis of someone like Donald Trump. Furthermore, he writes, "Doctors who loosely and freely offer diagnoses for individuals they have never interviewed threaten to make these terms cheap and ubiquitous, fueling misperceptions." Bonnie Kristian

August 28, 2014

Former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson (R) pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to accepting and then concealing payments he received after switching his support from one candidate to another during the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Sorenson pleaded guilty to one count of causing a federal campaign committee to falsely report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission and one count of obstruction of justice, The Des Moines Register reports.

Sorenson worked as Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) Iowa chairman until just days before New Year's 2012, when he defected to then-Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) campaign. He shifted his allegiance to Paul just hours after going to a Bachmann event, making his big announcement during a Ron Paul rally.

Sorenson said he was paid a total of $73,000 from the Paul campaign, with the money laundered through two companies. He secretly negotiated with Paul's team for months before his announcement, a statement of fact says, and received payments ranging from $8,000 a month to $33,000. Sorenson had long denied the allegations, and had said publicly he was not being paid when he switched campaigns.

Sorenson resigned from the state Senate in 2013. The sentencing date has not yet been scheduled, but Sorenson could serve up to 25 years in prison. So far, no one has been charged with actually giving Sorenson the $73,000. Catherine Garcia

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