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Psychiatrists gone mute

Melvin B. Miller
Psychiatrists gone mute
“I don’t care how crazy he acts. No one has said Trump’s certifiably mad ...”

Political opponents are often harshly critical of one another. It is not uncommon for one to assert that the policy proposals of the other are crazy. But with Donald Trump in the White House the criticism has become more personal. Some believe that Trump is psychologically deranged, but strangely enough, competently trained psychiatrists are unwilling to speak openly on the matter.

The Founding Fathers apparently did not believe that American citizens would be foolish enough to elect a crazy man as president, so no provision for that was made directly in the Constitution. And it is a strength of the democracy that it is difficult to remove a president once he is elected. Such provision is Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution states:

The President … shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Some Democrats urge impeaching Trump but it is unlikely that will happen without evidence of violations uncovered in the Robert Mueller investigation. Another provision, the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, ratified in 1964, allows for the removal of a president who is no longer capable of performing his duties. Since Trump can show up for work every day, this approach will not succeed without documentation that Trump is mentally incapacitated.

But that is unlikely to happen. The dominant 37,000 member American Psychiatric Association has decreed that “member psychiatrists should not give professional opinions about the mental state of someone they have not personally evaluated.” So as long as Trump avoids the psychiatrist’s couch, there will be no reliable professional statement on the soundness of his mind. Even if Trump sought psychiatric help, which is unlikely, the consulting psychiatrist could not release the results of his examination without the patient’s approval.

What a perilous catch-22. Psychiatrists are the professionals in society who are most qualified to determine whether or not Trump is sane. But they cannot comment on that issue publicly unless Trump agrees to be examined and will then release the medical report. Yet many of those observing Trump’s bizarre behavior have already concluded on their own that he might have a mental illness.

So Americans are left to endure the hazard of possible injurious policies that Trump might inflict if it turns out that he is actually deranged. And the psychiatric professionals simply sit on the sidelines.

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