The American Psychiatric Association has reminded its members that they are prohibited from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated, the Washington Post reported.
The timing of the reminder, which was issued last week, is not coincidental. The association was reacting to a spate of posts on social media regarding the character of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
One such post was the tweet from Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of the Harvard Medical School, who wrote: "Narcissistic personality disorder. Trump doesn't just have it, he defines it."
Another was a 9,000 word psychological evaluation of Trump by a Northwestern University professor. He, too, defined Trump as suffering from Narcissistic personality disorder.
The rule that the association referred to is known as the Goldwater Rule, which refers to the 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. It was enacted after Fact magazine published a survey of 2,417 psychiatrists responding to the question of whether Goldwater was psychologically fit to be president. Fully 1,189 responded that he wasn't.
"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," wrote APA president Maria Oquendo.
The Goldwater Rule reads: "On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, 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."
"Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical," Oquendo wrote on the APA website.
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