Goldwater rule

The Goldwater rule is the informal name given to of Section 7.3 in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) code of ethics[1] which states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person and obtained consent from to discuss their mental health in public statements.[2] It is named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.[3]

The issue arose in 1964 when Fact magazine published the article "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater."[3][4] The magazine polled psychiatrists about American Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president.[5][6] In Goldwater v. Ginzburg Goldwater filed a libel suit in response to the article, he won $75,000 in damages.[3]


Section 7.3, which appeared if the first edition of the APA's code of ethics in 1973 and is still in effect as of 2016,[7] says:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.[1]


  1. 1 2 American Psychiatric Association, The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry 2010 edition pdf
  2. "Ethics Reminder Offered About 'Goldwater Rule' on Talking to Media", Psychiatric News, May 18, 2007 full text
  3. 1 2 3 "The Psychiatric Question: Is It Fair to Analyze Donald Trump From Afar?". New York Times. August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  4. "ScattergoodEthics – Revisiting the Goldwater Rule". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  5. Richard A. Friedman (May 23, 2011). "How a Telescopic Lens Muddles Psychiatric Insights". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  6. "LBJ Fit to Serve". Associated Press. May 23, 1968. Retrieved 2011-05-24. Publisher Ralph Ginzburg, defendant in a libel suit for an article on a poll of psychiatrists on Barry Goldwater that he conducted in 1964 says ...
  7. Kroll, J; Pouncey, C (June 2016), "The Ethics of APA's Goldwater Rule", Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 44 (2): 226–235, PMID 27236179
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