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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

President Trump’s Mental Health — Is It Morally Permissible for Psychiatrists to Comment?

Claire Pouncey
The New England Journal of Medicine
December 27, 2107

Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist who was recently elected governor of Virginia, distinguished himself during the gubernatorial race by calling President Donald Trump a “narcissistic maniac.” Northam drew criticism for using medical diagnostic terminology to denounce a political figure, though he defended the terminology as “medically correct.” The term isn’t medically correct — “maniac” has not been a medical term for well over a century — but Northam’s use of it in either medical or political contexts would not be considered unethical by his professional peers.

For psychiatrists, however, the situation is different, which is why many psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have refrained from speculating about Trump’s mental health. But in October, psychiatrist Bandy Lee published a collection of essays written largely by mental health professionals who believe that their training and expertise compel them to warn the public of the dangers they see in Trump’s psychology. The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President rejects the position of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that psychiatrists should never offer diagnostic opinions about persons they have not personally examined. Past APA president Jeffrey Lieberman has written in Psychiatric News that the book is “not a serious, scholarly, civic-minded work, but simply tawdry, indulgent, fatuous tabloid psychiatry.” I believe it shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.

The article is here.