Goldwater rule

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The Goldwater rule is the informal name for a precept of medical ethics promulgated by the American Psychiatric Association. It forbids psychiatrists from commenting on individuals' mental state without examining them personally and being authorized by the person to make such comments.[1] The rule has no official name; it is simply Section 7.3 of the APA's ethics principles.[2]

The issue arose in the 1960s when Fact magazine published the article "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater." The magazine polled psychiatrists about American Senator Barry Goldwater and whether he was fit to be president.[3][4]


The rule itself reads:

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.[2]


  1. ^ "Ethics Reminder Offered About 'Goldwater Rule' on Talking to Media", Psychiatric News, May 18, 2007 full text
  2. ^ a b American Psychiatric Association, The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry 2010 edition pdf
  3. ^ Richard A. Friedman (May 23, 2011). "How a Telescopic Lens Muddles Psychiatric Insights". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  4. ^ "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 ...