Based on President Trump’s behavior, a California Congresswoman introduced a bill that would subject President Trump to a mental health evaluation.

LOS ANGELES, CA, August 24, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/ — Recently, there have been questions about President Trump and his mental status. The implication is that he has signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. One suggestion was to require a psychiatric or psychological assessment in order to determine if this is the case.

It would be a good idea to have any candidate who is nominated for the presidency to undergo a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. Additionally, it would be helpful if there was a mechanism to require a sitting president to undergo an evaluation. However, many legal and ethical questions emerge. For example, who would select the clinician, and how does the Congress act on the results? Further, as noted below is the law even needed?

In the case of President Trump, there are no initial signs of Alzheimer’s Disease at this time. There are some glimmerings of a potential problem in that he has contradicted what he has said on prior occasions. Another disqualifying diagnosis would be schizophrenia. To be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, several criteria including hallucinations and delusions smut be present. However, there are no substantial clinical signs that warrant such a diagnosis.

With dementia, there needs to be a significant deterioration in cognitive abilities. A main symptom is short term memory loss. For example, the President may not recall essential details from a cabinet meetings a few days prior. His vacillation on issues or memory distortions may emerge from what some claim is a based on attention deficit disorder, narcissistic and/ or borderline personalty disorder. A personalty disorder alone would not be enough to prompt an evaluation or the initiation of the 25th Amendment. On the other hand if significant signs of dementia emerge, then the situation is different. In the case of dementia, or other disabling diagnoses,it would seem to be unnecessary to have a new law.

At the Eisner Institute for Professional Studies, ( our graduate courses in clinical psychology and geropsychology cover the diagnostic criteria for various mental disorders.

Donald A. Eisner, Ph.D. J.D.
Dean, Eisner Institute for Professional Studies

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