When Society’s Safety is at Stake: A Post-Trump Review of the Goldwater Rule

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May 11 2021
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

The event is finished.

a virtual CERL forum

Watch the playback

This CERL Forum was the culmination of CERL’s blog exploration of the Goldwater Rule and the rule’s controversial place in the psychiatry profession and American society

The campaign and presidency of Donald J. Trump triggered vigorous debate among psychiatrists about the Goldwater Rule. Set by the American Psychiatric Association, the rule prohibits statements by psychiatrists about a public figure’s mental health without a proper examination and patient authorization. The APA views such statements to be unethical and irresponsible. Many psychiatrists believe the rule erodes their duty to protect public health and puts society’s safety at risk. Some also believe it marginalizes them from participating in the political process.

Will psychiatrists and other mental health professionals ever be able to publicly and ethically comment or warn the public about the mental state of the next powerful leader whom they believe puts the people in harm’s way?

The expert panelists will revisit the Goldwater Rule and answer these questions and more:

  • What is the nature of psychiatrists’ public health obligation to alert citizens that a leader may pose a danger?
  • Under what circumstances may members of the American Psychiatrist Association publicly comment on the mental health of a public figure and remain in good standing? Are they permitted to render opinions to legal authorities?
  • Is the Goldwater Rule a hard and fast prohibition or a guiding principle? Should it be modified? Or even eliminated?
  • Will American psychiatry be ready to play a role in the decision to remove a president under the 25th Amendment when the alleged incapacity involves mental impairment?


Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D, David & Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania


Norman Eisen, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings

Bandy X. Lee, M.D., M.DIV. forensic psychiatrist and President of the World Mental Health Coalition

Richard Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law, and CERL Advisory Council member

Claire Pouncey, M.D., Ph.D., psychiatrist

Paul Summergrad, M.D., FRCPsych (Hon), Dr. Frances S. Arkin Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Tufts Medical Center

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When Society’s Safety is at Stake: A Post-Trump Review of the Goldwater Rule