Diagnosing from a Distance: Debates over Libel Law, Media, and Psychiatric Ethics from Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a new book by a BPSI Candidate Member, John Martin-Joy, MD.

Ever since the rise of Adolf Hitler, mental health professionals have sought to use their knowledge of human psychology to understand – and intervene in – political developments. From Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump, psychiatrists have commented, sometimes brashly, on public figures’ mental health. But is the practice ethical? While the American Psychiatric Association prohibits psychiatric comment on public figures under its ‘Goldwater Rule’, others disagree. Diagnosing from a Distance is the first in-depth exploration of this controversy. Making extensive use of archival sources and original interviews, John Martin-Joy reconstructs the historical debates between psychiatrists, journalists, and politicians in an era when libel law and professional standards have undergone dramatic change. Charting the Goldwater Rule’s crucial role in the current furor over Trump’s fitness for office, Martin-Joy assesses the Rule’s impact and offers a more liberal alternative. This remarkable book will change the way we think about psychiatric ethics and public life.

About the Author: John Martin-Joy, MD is a psychiatrist in Cambridge, MA, and a part-time instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is a BPSI Candidate in psychoanalytic training and the author of many articles on the history and ethics of the Goldwater Rule. His new blog Politics, Psychiatry, and Psychoanalysis explores the history and ethics of psychiatric comment on public figures. Dr. Martin-Joy is scheduled to discuss his new book at the BPSI Meet the Author event on Mon, Jan 11, 2021 and present a paper on Erik Erikson and the 1960s at the 2021 APsaA meetings.

Meet the Author Webinar video can be watched online. Members and partners can borrow the book from the BPSI library.