Should We Evaluate a President's Physical, Mental Health?

May 18, 2017

Psychiatrist Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, recently wrote in a commentary that it has become a weekly occurrence to receive calls from journalists asking him to comment on President Trump's mental health. Dr Lieberman said he declines to do so, citing the Goldwater rule, the informal name given to Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association's code of ethics, which states that it's unethical for psychiatrists to make public statements about a public figure they have not evaluated.

The Goldwater rule references Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president in 1964, who won a libel suit against a magazine that polled psychiatrists on Goldwater's mental fitness. The majority polled believed he was psychologically unfit for presidency.

But Dr Lieberman believes that it is time for a standard to be set for measuring a president's physical and mental health.  He says medical exams are essential for other jobs, as well as for professional athletes and the military — even for obtaining life insurance. He suggests that the same be required of a leader in such a powerful position.

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