Psychiatric association disavows Bandy Lee’s arm-chair diagnoses of Trump

Earlier this week, I reported on the questionable remarks to the media and members of Congress by Bandy Lee, a Yale psychiatrist who raised doubts Donald Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. Lee also edited a book that included essays from 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts making the same argument.

In that article, I asked whether the American Psychiatric Association was going to address this situation, seeing that a member of theirs was using her profession as a cover for a soft coup.

Fortunately, the answer came swift and strong.

As the Washington Examiner reports:

The American Psychiatric Association urged members of its profession to uphold its decades-long principle that psychiatrists should never offer diagnostic opinions about people they haven’t personally examined, in light of President Trump’s impending medical exam and questions about his mental fitness.

“We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media,” the group wrote. “Arm-chair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical.”

The rebuke came Tuesday as politicians and members of the media were ratcheting up their rhetoric about Trump’s mental health. Earlier in the day, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle unveiled legislation that would require presidential candidates to have a medical exam and publicly disclose the results before the general election. Joe Scarborough also has said on his MSNBC program “Morning Joe” that Trump has dementia, and more than a dozen lawmakers have discussed Trump with a Yale University psychiatrist who said that Trump was “going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.” The psychiatrist, Dr. Brandy Lee, who has not examined Trump, edited The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which includes testimonials from 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts.

But the association reminded its members that one of its core principles, known as the “Goldwater Rule,” has been in place since 1973 and states that psychiatrists should not publicly issue medical opinions about people they haven’t personally examined in a medical context.

“The Goldwater Rule … makes it unethical for a psychiatrist to render a professional opinion to the media about a public figure unless the psychiatrist has examined the person and has proper authorization to provide the statement,” Dr. Saul Levin, the group’s CEO and medical director, said in a statement. “APA stands behind this rule.”

While the APA’s statement didn’t call out Lee specifically, it is abundantly clear that the organization had Lee in mind. Further, Lee did not need to be reminded of the Goldwater Rule. CNN raised it with Lee, who came up with vague rationalizations to justify raising doubts about Trump’s mental capacity.

Interestingly, Trump addressed this issue head on by letting cameras into a meeting discussing immigration policy. As Politico reports:

For nearly an hour Tuesday, President Donald Trump presided over an unusually public negotiating session on the subject of immigration, running the meeting while TV cameras rolled in an apparent effort to knock down reports that he is less than a fully capable commander-in-chief.

Surrounded by 25 lawmakers inside the Cabinet Room, Trump held court over the meeting, alternately inviting Democrats and Republicans — by name — to address the bipartisan group. He ran point for 55 minutes over a relatively free-flowing discussion between lawmakers about the future of the DACA program, border security and the possibility of immigration reform.

This was a brilliant move. What better way for him to show whether he is mentally fit by opening up a meeting to show him at work.

In any event, it is encouraging to see the psychiatry profession decide to not get dragged into a soft coup.

Whether the media and other politicos decide to drop this idiotic issue is another question entirely.

I’ll take the under.

Yale psychologist is giving Congress cover to declare Trump mentally unfit

Bandy Lee
Bandy X. Lee

CNN reports that:

A dozen lawmakers from the House and Senate received a briefing from Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee on Capitol Hill in early December about President Donald Trump‘s fitness to be president — and Lee has been asked to speak with additional lawmakers, worried about the President’s mental state, later this month.

Lee is editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which, according to Politico, includes testimonials from 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts assessing the president’s level of “dangerousness”.

In the Politico article, Lee is quoted as having been surprised by Congressional interest in her findings.

“One senator said that it was the meeting he most looked forward to in 11 years,” Lee recalled. “Their level of concern about the president’s dangerousness was surprisingly high.”

Lee confirmed to CNN her meetings with members of Congress on the issue:

“Lawmakers were saying they have been very concerned about this, the President’s dangerousness, the dangers that his mental instability poses on the nation,” Lee told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, “They know the concern is universal among Democrats, but it really depends on Republicans, they said. Some knew of Republicans that were concerned, maybe equally concerned, but whether they would act on those concerns was their worry.”

Interestingly, CNN asked Lee whether her public comments were consistent with the professional standards of a psychologist:

Lee’s public comments are highly unusual given protocols from medical professional organizations — including the 37,000-member American Psychiatric Association — banning psychiatrists from diagnosing patients without a formal examination. Under recent guidance from the APA, it is “fine for a psychiatrist to share their expertise about psychiatric issues in general,” but “member psychiatrists should not give professional opinions about the mental state of someone they have not personally evaluated,” according to an APA blog post. When asked by CNN about Lee’s comments, the APA referred them to this guidance. …
Lee made it clear that she is not in a position to diagnose the President, or any public figure, from afar. But she said that it is incumbent on medical professionals to intervene in instances where there is a danger to an individual or the public. She argues that signs the President has exhibited have risen to that level of danger.
Lee also claims that neither her research nor her statements are politically motivated.
“I am uninterested in partisan politics, I have never registered for a political party,” she said. “Ideology doesn’t interest me.”
Lee is either a terrible liar or extraordinarily naive. Given the fact that she is a psychologist at one of the nation’s leading universities, it would be reasonable to not consider naïvité as a viable possibility. Besides, to characterize any interest by politicians in identifying any way to remove Trump from power, given what has happened over the past eighteen months, as “surprisingly high” beggars belief.
It ought to be abundantly clear to see what Lee is doing. She, and the other 27 “mental health professionals” in the book she edited, are working to provide interested members of Congress sufficient rationale so as to remove Trump from power because he is mentally unfit to serve, as allowed under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
However, how she is doing it is clearly unethical. She is pretending to make a professional judgement (remember, this is based on her research, not her political opinion) about Trump’s mental fitness to serve as President. Absent Trump allowing Lee to meet with and examine him, Lee has no basis to do this. Any arguments she may make about Trump’s mental fitness is irrelevant. The only reason she is making these statements is to provide Congress intellectual cover to remove him from office.
Regardless of what one thinks about Trump, the Democratic (and perhaps Republican) establishment are playing an extremely dangerous game in working to use extra-legal methods to remove a duly-elected president from office, and Lee is helping them. At the very least, she should apologize for her participation in such a nasty process.
Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association has a huge problem on its hands. We have at least one example of a member attempting to use her authority as a psychiatrist to rationalize a clearly political move to remove Trump as president. How will it respond to this abuse?
Time will tell.