The president of the American Psychiatric Association advised members to resist the urge to psychoanalyze candidates participating in this year’s election cycle, as it would be both “unethical” and “irresponsible,” said Maria A. Oquendo, MD.
In a blog post, Oquendo referenced the principle commonly known as “the Goldwater Rule,” which prohibits psychiatrists from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.
The American Psychiatric Association has been abiding by this principle since 1973, following an incident that took place during the 1964 presidential election. During this time, Fact published a survey that revealed the opinions of psychiatrists on whether Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP nominee, was psychologically fit to be president. As the blog post notes, a total of 2,417 of those queried responded, with 1,189 saying Goldwater was not fit enough to become the president.
“While there was no formal policy in place at the time that survey was published, the ethical implications of the Goldwater survey, in which some responding doctors even issued specific diagnoses without ever having examined him personally, became immediately clear. This large, very public ethical misstep by a significant number of psychiatrists violated the spirit of the ethical code that we live by as physicians, and could very well have eroded public confidence in psychiatry,” wrote Oquendo.
“Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical,” warned Oquendo.