Trump Derangement Syndrome v. Psychologists’ Professional Ethics


In last weekend’s Radio Derb I had a segment on Trump Derangement Syndrome. It included some remarks about Evan Osnos’ piece in the May 8th issue of New Yorker magazine. The piece is titled Endgame: What would it take to cut short Trump’s Presidency? I commented:

Mr Osnos stops short of calling for an assassination, but probably only because New Yorker doesn’t want the FBI banging on their door. And as in the late Soviet Union, when physical elimination is bothersome, you can always incarcerate an Enemy of the People in a psychiatric ward.

So here’s Mr Osnos discussing possibilities with Lance Dodes [Email him] a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Quote:

Like many of his colleagues, Dodes speculates that Trump fits the description of someone with malignant narcissism, which is characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies. On February 13th, in a letter to the Times [that would be the New York Times, duh], Dodes and thirty-four other mental-health professionals wrote, “We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.”

That drew the following from a listener whose spouse is a professional psychologist.

As [my spouse] points out whenever one of these “mental health professionals” opines on Trump’s mental state, this is very, very unethical and in fact runs up against actual rules of the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations which were put in place back in 1964, when a bunch of shrinks did the very same thing to Barry Goldwater.

It’s basically forbidden to offer any diagnosis of anyone you haven’t consulted personally (and of course you’d be forbidden from discussing the same in public if you had, because of confidentiality), and especially of a public and political figure, where the potential for bias and abuse is too great.

The fact that the ringleaders here are retired and/or academics (and not actual practitioners) probably gets them off the hook, but many of their followers are still active.

There might be a nice big fat civil lawsuit in here somewhere for President Trump.

I thought of writing a Letter to the Editor of the  New Yorker pointing this out, but decided not to waste my time.  That magazine’s Letters page has for many years now been solidly, unwaveringly CultMarx-compliant.