What Happens When Psychiatric Abuse Begins To Affect Politics
By Stella Morabito
July 16, 2019
Political abuse of psychiatry has a sordid history. Sadly, history seems to be repeating itself. A group of activist psychiatrists that dubs itself the “World Mental Health Coalition” is planning a July 23 town hall on Capitol Hill at which they intend to present a psychiatric “analysis” of President Trump based on the special counsel report.
At the behest of House Democrats, they will recommend Trump be removed from office. According to an interview with the lead activist in Raw Story, they will also unveil five questions they want members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to ask Mueller during his testimony rescheduled for the following day, July 24 (the group also rescheduled to make sure its event immediately precedes Mueller’s testimony.).
The principal leader of the scheme is Yale University psychiatrist Bandy Lee, the editor of a 2017 book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” She says they have a duty to warn the public that Trump is a menace to society and should be “contained” for an evaluation, and removed from office.
According to Lee, the July 16 meeting will be a prelude to another town hall on the subject. The members of Congress who appear most involved in hosting of a follow-up town hall are John Yarmuth (D–Ky.) and Jamie Raskin (D–Md.) Raskin has been a strong proponent of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as unfit to serve. The obvious intent of this stunt is to have some credentialed psychiatrists make a case for doing just that.
Resorting to the 25th Amendment is the latest in a long line of Democrats’ plan B to remove Trump from office. But there are a couple of obstacles here. One hurdle is the “Goldwater Rule” laid down in section seven of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics, which states that psychiatrists should not make professional judgments on public officials without their consent or an in-person examination.
The rule took effect after the presidential election of 1964. During that campaign, the political magazine “Fact” polled all members of the APA on Republican candidate Barry Goldwater’s fitness for office. Many who responded weren’t shy about publicly saying they thought Goldwater was basically insane. The cover of the magazine’s October 1964 issue stated: “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President!” (Goldwater later sued and won.)
Lee says the Goldwater Rule shouldn’t really apply to Trump because of a “duty to warn” about dangers that only informed experts like herself can diagnose. However, partly in response to Lee’s public activism as a psychiatrist, last year, the APA sent out a press release reaffirming its “unwavering” adherence to the Goldwater Rule and calling for “an end to ‘armchair’ psychiatry.”
Another problem for Lee is the backlash she has publicly received on Twitter from former APA president Jeffrey Lieberman, who stated that she was harming the profession of psychiatry. In response, Lee took down her Twitter page. You can find more on the story at psychsearch.net.
Give Us the Power to Determine Who Can Be Elected
What’s going on here is just the tip of a much deeper iceberg. Lee and her associates don’t simply want to evaluate only Trump. They believe psychiatrists should have carte blanche to do psychological evaluations on all candidates. For our own protection, you see.
Since last year, a confidential five-person working group, headed up by Lee (other members anonymous) has been devising a sort of tribunal that in the future would require “regular fitness-for-duty exams on presidential and vice presidential candidates, preferably as a requirement sometime before they take on the job, and even preferably before they run.” The probability of that happening in the foreseeable future is not high, though. According to the Washington Examiner:
‘Lee’s group realizes that Congress won’t enact such a requirement, which would include annual exam every year after winning the election, and instead is looking to demand that candidates voluntarily submit to being examined by the panel.
They plan to publish a proposal and make the case that the medical panel is needed to prevent mentally unfit people from entering high office.
“We would like to keep this entire process as voluntary and confidential as possible, but also in a democracy we believe the public has a right to know if a dangerous person is pursuing the presidency,’ Lee said.
I think it’s fair to say that most candidates, including Democrats, can see the risks of putting their careers at the mercy of a supposedly independent group of shrinks.
The greater danger here is that controversy has already been brewing among psychiatrists over whether to dispense with the Goldwater Rule. Even if the APA adheres to it, for now, the temptation to pass judgment on who can hold political power is obviously difficult for many of them to resist. (Lee, by the way, is not a member of the APA.) No doubt it is especially hard to resist if you feel you have the expertise that others lack, see a danger that others can’t, and that the fate of the entire world hangs on your shoulders.