APA Ethics Committee Issues Opinion on the Spread of Disinformation
“On matters relating to medicine, physicians have an especially powerful platform. For that reason, ‘Psychiatrists need to sustain and nurture the ethical integrity of the profession when in the public eye.’ (APA Commentary on Ethics in Practice, Topic 3.4.7.) When speaking publicly about a pandemic, therefore, it is particularly incumbent upon psychiatrists to honestly and responsibly share factual information,” states a new opinion from the American Psychiatric Association’s Ethics Committee. “Disseminating falsehoods about a pandemic disease such as COVID-19, including misleading information about scientifically supported public health protocols or vaccines, is unethical.” The opinion, which the Committee ratified at its Sept. 24, 2021, meeting, answers two ethical questions that were raised by members:
- Is it ethical for a psychiatrist to make public statements via news media or social media or other means recommending treatments for disease that are of unproven efficacy or known to be not effective?
- Is it ethical for a psychiatrist to make public statements via news media or social media or other means recommending specific forms of treatment for non-psychiatric diseases or disorders that are not encountered within the standard medical training of psychiatrists, e.g., newly described disorders or diseases, and for which the psychiatrist has no accredited clinical training regarding treatment?
The complete text appears as Opinion E.4 and Opinion E.5 in the Opinions of the Ethics Committee on the Principles of Medical Ethics.
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