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Warren Boroson has been known for his controversial survey of psychiatrists regarding their assessment of Senator Barry Goldwater’s mental health, which eventually led to his demise in the field. He was recently declared dead at the age of 88, leaving a legacy of skepticism in his pursuit of exposing the clinical psychology industry’s limitations and biases.
Boroson’s journey into psychiatry began in the 1960s when he became interested in the political climate of the time that sought to denounce Goldwater’s mental stability as a presidential candidate. As a journalist, he saw this as an opportunity to dig deeper into the subject and ask the experts themselves about their evaluation of Goldwater’s mental health. He contacted 12,356 psychiatrists in the United States in 1964 and asked them to assess Goldwater’s psychiatric fitness to serve as president through a questionnaire consisting of interlocking measures of mental illness, abnormality, and competency.
The Goldwater rule, established by the American Psychiatric Association, prohibits psychiatrists from passing public judgement on the mental state of a public figure without conducting a formal evaluation. However, Boroson argued that this rule had no legal basis and that clinical psychologists should be able to express their opinions in the public domain to avoid potential damage that unfit officials could cause.
The results of the survey showed that 1,189 psychiatrists responded (10% response rate). Of those who responded, 1,147 turned in usable questionnaires. Of those, 657 labeled Goldwater as psychologically unfit to hold office, while 484 suggested he was fit. Boroson’s survey caused a media frenzy, not just because the majority of psychiatrists labeled Goldwater as psychologically unfit for office, but because it raised serious ethical concerns about the professional use of psychiatry in politics.
Several psychiatrists criticized Boroson’s methodology for not allowing for a nuanced evaluation of Goldwater’s mental health, which requires intensive exploration of his past medical records and current psychological status. However, Boroson contended that his study was just an approximation of the public’s opinion and should not be taken as a definitive evaluation of Goldwater’s mental health.
Boroson never fully recovered from the backlash and controversy caused by his survey. It led to a series of lawsuits and investigations into his ethical standards as a journalist, which were dismissed. However, the incident caused a stir in the psychiatric community, resulting in stricter laws and codes of ethics to guide the professional conduct of clinical psychologists.
Despite the criticism he faced, Boroson remained a firm believer in the power of journalism to expose the truth of political happenings and hold those in power accountable. He became a prolific author of books and essays, many of which centered on the subject of finance and investment. He also established himself as an expert in personal financial management, advising thousands on how to maximize their financial resources through his books and columns.
The controversy surrounding Boroson’s survey highlights the complex relationship between psychology and politics, and the need for transparency when dealing with public figures who have the potential to cause significant harm. It also illustrates the importance of ethical guidelines in the field of psychology and the need to avoid the abuse of power that comes with such knowledge.
In conclusion, Warren Boroson’s survey of psychiatrists regarding Goldwater’s mental health may have been controversial, but it sparked a much-needed conversation about the role of psychology in politics and the ethical standards that must be in place to prevent abuse of power. While it may have led to Boroson’s downfall in the field of psychology, it was not the end of his career as he established himself as a prolific author and financial expert. The legacy he leaves behind is a reminder of the importance of truth-telling and accountability in the field of journalism, leading the way to a more transparent and ethical future for all.