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Psychiatric Group Tells Members It's OK to Break Silence on Trump's Bizarre Behavior

Easing "gag order" on public diagnosis, professional association entrusts mental health experts to use their "knowledge responsibly"

In a recent email to its 3,500 members, the American Psychoanalytic Association "told its members they should not feel bound by" the Goldwater Rule, which some have characterized as a "gag rule," Stat News's Sharon Begley reports. (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

As President Donald Trump continues to behave bizarrely and erratically—attacking his own attorney general, launching into a political tirade during a speech to Boy Scouts, bringing his 11-year-old son into the burgeoning Russia controversya professional association of psychoanalysts is telling its members to drop the so-called Goldwater rule and comment publicly on the president's state of mind if they find reason to do so.

"Trump's behavior is so different from anything we've seen before."
—Dr. Prudence Gourguechon

The Goldwater Rule was formally included in the American Psychiatric Association's "Principles of Medical Ethics" following the 1964 presidential campaign, during which a magazine editor was sued for running an article in which mental health professionals gave their opinions on Republic presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's psychiatric state. The rule deems public comments by psychiatrists on the mental health of public officials without consent "unethical."

In a recent email to its 3,500 members, the American Psychoanalytic Association "told its members they should not feel bound by" the Goldwater Rule, which some have characterized as a "gag rule," STAT's Sharon Begley reports.

"The statement," Begley notes, "represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump's mental health.

In an interview with STAT, former president of the American Psychoanalytic Association Dr. Prudence Gourguechon—who now works as a psychiatrist in Chicago—said the Goldwater Rule should be abandoned because "Trump's behavior is so different from anything we've seen before."

"We don't want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly," Gourguechon concluded.

Dr. Leonard Glass, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, argued that Trump's "extraordinary abundance of speech and behavior" gives mental health professionals plenty of material "on which one could form a judgment."

"It's not definitive, it's an informed hypothesis," Glass concluded, "and one we should be able to offer rather than the stunning silence demanded by the Goldwater rule."

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