Politics and Stigma

Last week the New York Times printed a letter questioning Donald Trump’s fitness for duty as President based on his purported psychiatric diagnosis. But in a subsequent letter psychiatrist Allen Frances rightly pointed out how this promotes stigma associated with mental illness.

When I came across a similar letter a few months ago signed by several psychiatrists, I forwarded it to two district branch ethics committees of American Psychiatric Association for review of possible violation of the so-called Goldwater Rule which prohibits diagnosis of a public figure without examination. The Massachusetts committee refused to consider the complaint without a signed paper letter, and I never heard back from the other committee at all.

Psychiatrists and other mental health should get their priorities straight and avoid stigmatizing their patients to further their political interests.

“Above all do no harm” includes sacrificing personal political motives in order to avoid harming patients with stigma.

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