There is a longstanding ethical rule for psychiatrists that prohibits giving a professional diagnosis of the mental health of public figures who have not been personally evaluated — a rule that was largely ignored throughout the tenure of former President Donald Trump.
It wasn’t entirely unenforced, however, as was learned by former Yale University professor Dr. Bandy Lee, an outspoken critic of Trump, who was recently fired by the university for, in part, grossly and repeatedly violating that ethics rule, the Washington Examiner reported.
Professor: Trump is psychotic
Beginning in 2017, Dr. Lee, who had never met with or evaluated then-President Trump, publicly asserted her belief that Trump suffered the symptoms of certain mental health disorders, claims that eventually culminated in her best-selling book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
That alone appears to be in violation of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule” against diagnosing public figures without an evaluation. Lee’s current problem, however, stems from the expansion of her diagnosis of just Trump to that of a “shared psychosis” with “just about all” of the president’s supporters, including one of his impeachment attorneys, Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz.
The famed attorney was not pleased by the unethical smear and insinuation that he was “psychotic,” and sent a letter to top university officials that called for a formal investigation of Lee in relation to the Goldwater Rule and her public diagnoses, according to the Yale Daily News.
That investigation resulted in Lee being let go from her position from Yale in mid-2020, according to a lawsuit the Lee filed in federal court in Connecticut alleging wrongful termination and other damages.
Lee claimed that she is not bound by the APA’s Goldwater Rule — as she is not an APA member. Furthermore, she defended her public remarks against Trump, Dershowitz, and others as being part of her duty to warn the public of danger, as well as protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution, the Connecticut Constitution, and Yale’s guarantees of academic freedom and free expression.
Wrongful termination lawsuit
Lee undermined her own arguments, however, by including text from the termination letter she had received from Dr. John Krystal, chair of Yale’s Psychiatry Department, in which he noted that questions about her “clinical judgment and professionalism” — and not the “political content” of her public remarks — was the reason for her being let go from the school.
Krystal pointed out that the “duty to warn” that Lee claimed as cover for her public remarks about Trump only existed in the context of a specific “treatment relationship” with a dangerous patient and not public figures a clinician had never personally met or evaluated. ”
Although the committee does not doubt that you are acting on the basis of your personal moral code, your repeated violations of the APA’s Goldwater Rule and your inappropriate transfer of the duty to warn from the treatment setting to national politics raised significant doubts about your understanding of crucial ethical and legal principles in psychiatry,” Krystal wrote in the termination letter.
Nevertheless, Lee alleged in her lawsuit that Yale breached its contract with her, breached the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” that she was wrongfully terminated, and that Yale was negligent in representing its rules and guidelines in terms of its guarantees of academic freedom and free expression.
The ex-professor is demanding the court compel the university to reinstate her as a professor, provide compensation for a variety of losses she claims to have suffered, as well as punitive damages against Yale for the alleged violation of her rights.