Context is important, and mental health problems aren't always dangerous for a person's job – but in the depths of my own depression, I wouldn't consider myself safe to practice. Equally, imagine your father has a heart attack and then decides to go back to his job as a pilot of a commercial airliner early. What is your responsibility? Not so long ago a group of psychiatrists broke new ground. The team of experts declared, publicly, that President Donald Trump has a “ ”. An illness which may make him unsafe to lead the US. New concerns suggest that he may have dementia. Now don’t get me wrong:
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no one should be stigmatised for disease. Would such a measure lead to harm, be misused and become political? Probably. Would you declare your opposition insane just to keep them out of office? Perhaps.
But equally, can we afford to ignore clear signs of illness in man with his finger on the nuclear button? Long has Trump’s irregular attitude been a source of fascination. Oft described by supporters as “refreshing”, his tumultuous outbursts are now finding new judgement. “Narcissistic, juvenile and dangerous” are just a few words that come to mind. All leaders must make difficult choices, but most are predictable.
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What seems to separate Trump from his contemporaries is a complete lack of control. In short, Trump does not act like an adult. Naturally, questions have been asked. Is he mad? What is his plan?
These are important questions. But so is this one: is it right to question a leader’s mental health publicly? The team of psychiatrists from Yale obviously think so. And I agree.
There are pragmatic safety issues concerned. If Trump is suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, as unfortunate as it may be, he may not be fit for office. The rationality required to make complex decisions may be simply beyond his grasp. The main crux of the argument can be broken down to three questions: Within medicine, there are certain rules.
One is to respect a patient’s autonomy and confidentiality. By these two mantras, one may argue that satellite diagnosis is always wrong.