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The ethics of calling Trump crazy

by AirTalk®

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Then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The diagnoses seem to come as frequently as his tweets — narcissistic personality disorder, dementia or simply “he must be crazy.”

But for the people who actually study these disorders, what are the consequences of diagnosing the leader of the free world?

It’s a question psychiatry experts have been debating since before the November election. Recently, 35 psychiatrists met at Yale to discuss Trump's mental health, concluding that he is “paranoid and delusional.” Though they argued that it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the country that the president is unstable, others in the field, including the American Psychiatric Association, consider such diagnoses an “ethical misstep.” These opponents point to the Goldwater Rule spelled out in the American Psychiatry Association code of ethics, which came about after 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater won a libel suit against a magazine that had deemed him “psychologically unfit” to be president. It stipulates that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about someone they have not met.

Is Trump an exception to this rule? Is there greater risk in breaking the rule or in following it? What role does partisanship play in such diagnoses?


John Gartner, a psychologist in private practice, and former assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and founder of Duty to Warn, an organization of mental health professionals who think Trump is mentally unfit for office

Renee Binder, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine

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