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The “Goldwater rule,” a policy adopted by the American Psychiatry Association (APA) in 1973, prohibits organization members from diagnosing or offering professional opinions regarding the mental health of public figures without both first-hand evaluation and authorization. Initially developed in response to a controversial survey of APA members during the 1964 Presidential election campaign, the ethics rule faced few large scale challenges until the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Since that time, a significant number of psychiatrists have either violated or criticized the rule openly. This paper argues that whatever the initial merits of the rule, the prohibition has since been rendered obsolete by the combined lack of professional consensus supporting the policy, absence of a meaningful enforcement mechanism, and the credible statements of non-APA members in the mental health professions regarding public figures.
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