Presidential Health: Secrets, Surprises, and Controversies

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


August 14, 2017

Fitness to Command

Figure 6. Barry Goldwater. Image from Wikimedia.

During the 1964 presidential election (Goldwater vs Johnson), Fact magazine published the results of a poll of psychiatrists who were asked whether Barry Goldwater was fit to assume the presidency; 1189 respondents said he was not. Goldwater sued, claiming that the report had been partly responsible for his election loss. Goldwater won the case which eventually reached the Supreme Court. In 1973, several years after the Supreme Court decision, the American Psychiatric Association developed what is now known as the Goldwater Rule, which states: "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."[12] Some health professionals now believe that it may be appropriate to reevaluate this rule, but the American Psychoanalytic Association thinks the Goldwater Rule is still ethical and appropriate.


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