A group of American psychiatrists is still trying hard to use the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution to depose President Donald Trump. About 67,000 people have signed a change.org petition “Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump is Mentally Ill And Must Be Removed”.
Duty to Warn, an initiative of clinical psychologist John Gartner, accuses the President of having a narcissistic personality disorder and being delusional and dangerous. Its argument is that under the 25th Amendment Trump should be removed on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit.
As you might expect, this has some support from Democrats in Congress. A Congresswoman from California, Zoe Lofgren, has introduced a resolution asking that the Vice-President and the Cabinet have Trump examined by medical and psychiatric professionals. Her press release states: “Does the President suffer from early stage dementia? Has the stress of office aggravated a mental illness crippling impulse control? Has emotional disorder so impaired the President that he is unable to discharge his duties? Is the President mentally and emotionally stable?
Since the early 60s, the two leading professional groups of psychiatrists and psychologists in the US have observed the “Goldwater Rule”, which barred members from diagnosing public figures. Only the American Psychoanalytic Association, a very small group of psychiatrists, has said that this is not binding on its members.
But some psychiatrists and psychologists are getting restless with Trump’s unconventional behaviour. Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee has just released a book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” with essays by 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health professionals analysing the President’s fitness for office.
They argue that their “duty to warn” Americans about Trump’s “madness” supersedes professional neutrality. Another even more controversial theme is that his “madness” is catching. From the trauma people have experienced under his administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences.
One argument against these mental health professionals is that mental illness may not disable a President. Writing in the New York Times, Peter D. Kramer and Sally L. Satel, note that:
But any number of presidents have remained in office despite some level of mental impairment. Historians believe that Abraham Lincoln, for example, had clinical depression. A president can have a mental disorder and, overall, function admirably. In the absence of disability, a president may be inexperienced, indecisive or inept. Psychiatrists would be alarmed if mental illness were considered an absolute bar to public service.
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