A group of leading psychiatric professionals attended an open town hall meeting at Yale’s School of Medicine last Thursday. Organized by Dr.Bandy X. Lee, a professor of psychiatry at Yale and a founding member of a group called Duty To Warn, the meeting was called to discuss the “Goldwater Rule” which was instigated by the professional psychiatric organizations in 1973 forbidding them from attempting to diagnose a person in the public eye that they haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate face to face.
The Duty To Warn organization has over 800 members who are:
“sufficiently alarmed that they feel the need to speak up about the mental-health status of the president.”
Created after the conservative Barry Goldwater won the Republication nomination in 1964 presidential election race. the Goldwater Rule is part of the code of ethics of the American Psychiatric Association. Goldwater’s slogan was “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right” and on top of his anti-communist rhetoric suggested he might start a nuclear war. A number of media outlets asked psychiatrists and psychologists to give their professional medical opinions on Goldwater, and their response was damning. Goldwater sued one of the press organizations, a magazine called Fact and won. The APA set down its rule a few years later.
The psychiatric professionals in attendance at the Yale Town Hall debated whether the “duty to warn”, an exception to the rights of confidentiality that requires a clinician who has reasonable grounds to believe that a client may be in imminent danger of harming himself or others to warn the possible victims is applicable in the case of Donald Trump.
Dr. John Gartner, practicing psychotherapist and psychiatric resident advisor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School until 2015, said:
“We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.”
Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, former Yale professor of psychiatry and author of the urtext about the ways Nazi doctors were perverted into killers used the phrase “malignant normality”, which he defines as “arrangements put forward as being normal when in fact they are dangerous and destructive” when he spoke to the audience.
The prominent professor of psychiatry Dr. Judith Herman, who was trained at Harvard and Cambridge spoke next. Dr.Herman had written to President Obama asking if there was some way to insist that Trump, then the president-elect, have a psychiatric examination:
“before this man assumes the terrifying power of a U.S. president?”
The senior clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical School, Dr. James F. Gilligan took it one step further by saying that you do not need a diagnosis to assess if someone is dangerous or not especially when Trump displays such blatant behaviours as attempting to destroy those who do not flatter, and agree with him in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Dr. Gilligan went on to say that Trump engages in exploitation and violation of the rights of others and sometimes goes as far as sadism, with no evidence of remorse.
“When you add all these elements,” Gilligan observed, “this is a class of people of whom Hitler is a member.”
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