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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Attributes of the APA's "gag order"

In her introduction to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (2017), Bandy X. Lee briefly discusses the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) recent reassertion of what is known as the Goldwater Rule. According to the APA, the Goldwater Rule states that

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.
Lee argues that when the APA reaffirmed that rule in March 2017, it "essentially placed a gag order on all psychiatrists and by extension all mental health professionals." [p. 11 of Kindle edition]

She goes on to explore some of the good and bad of the rule. She then makes an argument for a countervailing rule. That argument deserves more attention than I'll give it in this blog post, but I want to admit that while I choose now to focus right on her "gag order" language, I'm neglecting the meat of what she's really arguing.

In what ways is the APA's rule actually a "gag order" and in what ways is it just hyperbole?