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

                                           Watch the recording

Tuesday, May 11, 2021
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. ET

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


Norman Eisen Bandy Lee Richard Painter

Norman Eisen
Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings and an expert on law, ethics, and anti-corruption

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 & CERL Advisory Council

Claire Poucey


Paul Summergrad

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

The CERL blog series on the Goldwater Rule

Psychiatrists’ responsibility to society: Rethinking the Goldwater Rule
by Bandy X Lee, M.D., M.DIV.

Challenging the Goldwater Rule: When principles are in conflict
by John Martin-Joy, M.D.

Professional ethics, role of psychiatrists, and the Goldwater Rule
by Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., Brigadier General (Ret.), U.S. Army

The essential role of fiduciary duties: Presidential politics, the medical profession, and the Goldwater Rule
by Paul Summergrad, M.D., FRCPSYCH (HON)

In Trump’s wake, psychiatry is challenged
by Michael D’Antonio

Democracy needs mental health experts to speak up
by Richard Painter and Norman Eisen

Is the Goldwater Rule out of step with medical ethics? How four past APA presidents morally
justify the Goldwater Rule

by Claire Pouncey, M.D., Ph.D.