Journalists often turn to psychiatrists for analysis of medical, social, political, and cultural events that involve human behavior and illness. Once journalists seek their expertise, psychiatrists often rush to be helpful, which can lead to ineffective performance and to statements that may run afoul of principles of professional ethics. In this article, we discuss the bases on which the professionalism of psychiatrists may be impugned when they commit errors in their media presentations. Found within the Principles of Medical Ethics with Special Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry, the Goldwater Rule prohibits certain behaviors when psychiatrists share professional opinions with the public. We first discuss the Goldwater Rule, highlighting the events that led to its development and the professional response to its enactment. We then present a method to guide psychiatrists in their interaction with the media that will help them avoid violating ethics principles or the law. The method encourages knowledge of a framework of ethics principles that in turn guide the psychiatrist's behavior and thinking as he contemplates accepting invitations to interact with the media. The ethics-based roles include the Teacher, the Storyteller, the Celebrity Commentator, the Hollywood Consultant, the Clinician, and the Advertiser.
Disclosures of financial or other potential conflicts of interest: None.
- © 2014 American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law