Yale prof: Trump’s ‘mental impairment’ a ‘state of emergency’
- A Yale University professor of psychiatry has continued to test the ethical boundaries of her field by once again saying President Trump’s “mental impairment” warrants an examination of his fitness for office.
- The "Goldwater Rule" admonishes psychiatrists against forming a full opinion about public figures they have not personally examined.
- Professor Bandy Lee is calling for an examination to form such an opinion, citing the profession's practice of warning potential victims of violence (in this case, the public).
A Yale University professor of psychiatry has continued to test the ethical boundaries of her field by once again saying President Trump’s “mental impairment” warrants an examination of his fitness for office.
Professor Bandy Lee, an instructor in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry, sat down with Chauncey DeVega to discuss her controversial approach to the President, saying that the “situation has come to such a critical level” that she had no choice but to “speak out.”
“In fact, a state of emergency exists and we could no longer hold back,” she added, arguing that the “highest ethical principles” of her field actually mandate that she speak out.
“We have an obligation to because many lives and our survival may be at stake,” she continued, discussing an April conference she organized for like-minded colleagues called “Duty to Warn,” the name of which references a psychologist’s immunity from legal repercussions when disclosing information about a client who exhibits violent behavior.
As Campus Reform previously reported, the conference claimed to have an “ethical responsibility” to inform the American public about Trump’s “dangerous mental illness,” a defense Lee reiterated in her interview with DeVega.
“I’ve been thinking from the very beginning that he has a lot of signs of mental impairment, and that I think was revealed by the conference that I organized,” she said, stating that once she and her colleagues “broke the silence” and “brought out mental health professionals to bear upon this,” she received “an explosion” of messages from peers who had “been wanting to speak about this but [had] not been able to figure out a way to do it responsibly and ethically.”
DeVega goes on to question Lee about the particular ethical standards she has been flirting with, namely the “Goldwater Rule,” which DeVega dismissively described as “informal” and non-binding in the current context.
“When there’s such grave mental disability that it’s affecting the public sphere—the political sphere, such as in the current position of power—then those lines get blurred,” Lee responded, later adding that “there’s no rule that politics will never enter the sphere of health or our profession.”
However, an August 2016 posting on the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) website explicitly warns psychologists to resist psychoanalyzing “the candidates,” saying it would be “unethical” and “irresponsible” to abuse their credibility for political purposes.
“Every four years, the United States goes through a protracted elections process for the highest office in the land. This year, the election seems like anything but a normal contest, that has at times devolved into outright vitriol,” the APA’s August assessment contends. “The unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible.”
UPDATE: Lee explained to Campus Reform that she believes that she has "not broken the Goldwater Rule," but has rather "invoked the Tarasoff Rule, which is a duty to warn in the case of danger."
"I also make clear that one can never claim unfitness for office without an examination, and even then, it will have to be a political body that determines what to do with examination results," she added. "Deciding on unfitness of office is outside my domain of expertise."
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