Ethics and Society

Ethical analysis and news from the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education

Fordham University’s Dr. Celia Fisher on Reversal of the Goldwater Rule

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The American Psychoanalytic Association announced earlier this month that members of the association no longer need to abide by the long-established “Goldwater Rule” named after 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The rule, which can be found in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, cautions against most psychiatrists and other mental health professionals offering opinions about an individual publicly – including the President of the United States.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, this decision “elevated political and economic considerations above ethical principles.”

In an interview with Fordham News, Dr. Fisher stated, “Revising ethical standards to address a particularly problematic political figure or to condone the publication of a book does not reflect well on the association.  The public should be aware that the American Psychoanalytic Association organization does not represent the field of psychiatry per se, but a group of professionals who practice a particular therapeutic orientation within the mental health profession known as psychoanalysis.”

“Responsible diagnosis in psychoanalysis, as in other mental health fields, relies on assessment techniques that are characterized by interactions with and analysis of patient responses to specific established questions. A professionally and ethically responsible diagnosis cannot be determined in the absence of such interactions or assessments. For example, although the American Psychological Association has not adopted a “Goldwater Rule,” the importance of appropriate assessments are intrinsic in its ethics code, which forbids psychologists from providing opinions of the psychological characteristics of individuals if they have not “conducted an examination of the individuals adequate to support their statements or conclusions”. To be sure, the mental health profession can and should share their knowledge with the public, but irresponsible “diagnosis” diminishes the profession and does not serve the public it seeks to inform.”

The American Psychoanalytic Association’s Statement on “Goldwater Rule” can be found on their website.

For more from Dr. Fisher on this topic, stream the Fordham News February interview here and read our January post “Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies.”

Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D. is the Fordham University Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics and Director of the Center for Ethics Education. In addition to chairing the 2002 revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code, Fisher’s  Decoding the Ethics Code: A Practical Guide for Psychologists, is now in its fourth edition from Sage Publications.

Welcome 2017 HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute Fellows!

The Fordham University HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) is pleased to announce that the following individuals have been selected as 2017 fellows:

Cook
Dr. Stephanie Cook, New York University
Estreet
Dr. Anthony Estreet, Morgan State University
Fielding Miller
Dr. Rebecca Fielding-Miller, University of California, San Diego
Guta
Dr. Adrian Guta, University of Windsor
Pagano-Therrien
Dr. Jesica Pagano-Therrien, University of Massachusetts 
Pasipanodya
Dr. Elizabeth Pasipanodya, University of California, San Diego
Philbin
Dr. Morgan Philbin, Columbia University
John_S
Dr. John Sauceda, University of California, San Francisco

The Fordham University  HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI), now in its 7th year, is a training grant sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (R25 DA031608-07), Principal Investigator, Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director, Center for Ethics Education). The RETI provides early-career investigators in the social, behavioral, medical and public health fields with an opportunity to gain research ethics training. In doing so, RETI addresses the urgent need for HIV and drug use investigators who can identify and address ethical issues, engage drug using and other at-risk communities in the construction and evaluation of population sensitive research protections, and generate empirical data to inform ethical practice and policies for HIV prevention science. Through their funded Mentored Research Projects (MRP), RETI fellows generate empirical data, publish their findings in a variety of high-impact academic journals, and are trained to apply for increasing grant opportunities.

The program’s aims are to: (1) increase trainees’ knowledge of and capacity to address key ethical issues in HIV and drug abuse prevention research; (2) increase trainees’ capacity to ethically engage participants and communities in the construction of participant protections that reflect the values and merit the trust of all stakeholders in HIV and drug abuse prevention research.; (3) increase trainees’ capacity to conduct research that will generate data to inform HIV and drug abuse prevention research practices and policies; and (4) create and sustain an information and communication network for trainees, faculty and others in the field for enhancing ethical knowledge, ethical dialogue and future professional collaborations in HIV and drug abuse prevention research ethics.

Please visit our Institute Fellows page for the biographies of both this cohort and earlier cohorts of RETI Fellows, as well as read more information about their mentored research projects (MRP) and publications.

We look forward to welcoming our new fellows to the Institute in July!

Diagnosis at a Distance Continues to Undermine Public’s Ability to Evaluate Trump Policies

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Image via Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump’s first week in office was spent signing executive orders regarding the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, visa and refugee programs and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, all which sparked nationwide demonstrations and protests. Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign and more frequently over the past week, media outlets and select “experts”  have been gaining attention by diagnosing Trump with various mental or personality disorders. However, is it ethical for experts in psychology and psychiatry to offer professionals diagnoses of Trump and what are the political implications?

A recent article published in U.S. News & World Report titled, “Temperament Tantrum,” featured a professional assessment of the 45h President from John D. Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist who previously taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University. Gartner told U.S. News & World Report that Trump has “malignant narcissism,” an incurable narcissistic personality disorder. Despite the Goldwater Rule, in Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Ethics Code, which cautions against offering a professional opinion about an individual in the public eye who has not been formally evaluated, Gartner argues that in the case of Trump, he can “make this diagnosis indisputably” and the breaking of the [Goldwater Rule within the] ethics code is warranted.

According to Dr. Celia Fisher, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, however, such misleading statements by mental health professionals “helps the Trump administration hide their strategic intent to undermine traditional democratic principles under the guise of a President whose impulses often get the better of him.”

‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth

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This past November, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and advancement of the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research, held its annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference featuring Dr. Celia B. Fisher, Director of the Center for Ethics Education and HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute at Fordham University. She, along with Janet L. Brody, PhD and Eric Kodish, MD, were panelists on Panel III: Research With Children and Adolescents: Who and How Is the Decision Made to Participate?

Discussing her NIH-funded research on ethical issues in research involving LGBT youth, Dr. Fisher discussed the “interfamilial, regulatory and ethical tensions” that emerge in HIV prevention studies striving to recruit sexual and gender minority adolescents under 18 years of age.

Continue reading “‘Goodness of Fit Ethics’ to Promote Health Research for LGBT Youth”

Fordham University’s Dr. Celia B. Fisher on Bystander Apathy

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Since the election of Donald Trump in November, there has been a 35 percent increase in hate crimes across New York City, according to Straus News.  Throughout the presidential campaign, reported NYPD statistics of the city’s hate crime count has doubled in a year with 43 incidents in the 27 days following the election. The rhetoric and tone of the Trump campaign targeted many minorities and could be the reason for this rise.

These hate crimes and incidents included verbal and physical assaults on two Muslim women, a police officer and an MTA employee, and swastika graffiti in multiple places including the NYC subway and inside the elevator of state Senator Brad Hoylman’s apartment building. New Yorkers met for a workshop last month to educate themselves and help others by speaking up for victims of these attacks.

Continue reading “Fordham University’s Dr. Celia B. Fisher on Bystander Apathy”

Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing the Responsible Conduct of Research Involving LGBT Youth

Photo via Juvenile Justice Blog
Photo via Juvenile Justice Blog

For more information, please visit & “like” RELAY: Resources & Education for LGBT & Allied Youth: www.facebook.com/lgbtrelay

There has been a recent increase in public attention to health disparities in the incidence and treatment of suicide, substance abuse and sexual health risks among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth (LGBTY). Although there is clearly a need for prevention and treatment programs for LGBTY under the age of 18, few such programs exist, due in substantial part to limited research knowledge. Fordham University Center for Ethics Education Director Dr. Celia B. Fisher and Fordham HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute faculty member Dr. Brian Mustanski address this issue in a recent article in The Hastings Center Report.

Continue reading “Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing the Responsible Conduct of Research Involving LGBT Youth”