On the State of Lunacy and the Legal Provision for the Insane John T. Arlidge Author
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The writer of a book is usually expected to show cause for its production,—a custom which, however commendable as a sort of homage to his readers for challenging their attention to his lucubrations, must often put the ingenuity of an author to the test. Indeed the writer of this present treatise would feel some embarrassment in accounting for its production, did he not entertain the conviction that he has, in however imperfect a manner, supplied a work on several important subjects which have never before been so placed before the public, and which, moreover, occupy just now a most prominent position among the topics of the day.In the last Parliament, up to the period of its dissolution, a Special Committee of the House of Commons was engaged in examining into the condition of lunatics and the laws of lunacy; and the present Government has re-appointed the Committee, in order to resume the inquiry preparatory to the introduction of new enactments into the Legislature. The subjects treated of in the following pages relate to the same matters which have engaged the attention of Parliament, and elicited the special inquiry mentioned, viz. the present state of Lunacy and of the legal provision for the Insane with reference to their future wants.[Pg vi]In order to a better appreciation of the existing provision for the insane, and of its defects, the author has introduced certain preliminary chapters on the number of the insane, on the increase of insanity, on the inadequacy of the existing public provision for the insane, and on the curability of insanity. In reviewing the character and extent of the provisions for the insane, the course adopted has been to regard them in reference to their effects on recovery, and to discover the conditions inimical to it, whether without or within asylums. Hence the evils of private treatment and of workhouse detention of lunatics, particularly of the latter, have largely claimed attention. The condition of pauper lunatics boarded with their friends or with strangers demanded special notice, as did the long-complained-of evils of sending unfit cases to the county asylums, often to the exclusion of recent and curable ones, which might by proper treatment be restored to health and society. Turning to the consideration of our public asylums, considered as curative institutions, the disposition to extend them to an unmanageable size, and to substitute routine for treatment, has called for animadversion, as an error pregnant with numerous evils to their afflicted inmates. Another error pointed out is that of appointing too small a medical staff to asylums; and in proving this, as well as in estimating the proper size of asylums, the experience and opinions of both English and foreign physicians are copiously referred to.The future provision for the insane forms an important chapter, which, in order to consider the several[Pg vii] schemes proposed, is divided into several sections, viz. concerning the propriety of building separate asylums for recent and for chronic cases—of constructing distinct sections—of distributing certain patients in cottage homes—of erecting separate institutions for epileptics and for idiots.The registration of lunatics has appeared to the author’s mind of so great necessity and value that he has devoted several pages to unfold his views and to meet probable objections; and, in order to render the plan effectual, he has propounded as a complementary scheme the appointment of District Medical Officers, and entered into detail respecting the duties to be imposed upon them.Viewing the Commission of Lunacy as the pivot upon which any system of supervising and protecting all classes of lunatics must turn, it became necessary to examine into the capability of the present Board for its duties; and the result of that examination is, that this Board is inadequate to the effectual performance of the duties at present allotted to it, and that it would be rendered still more so by the adoption of any scheme for a thoroughly complete inspection and guardianship of all lunatics. This conclusion suggests the proposition to enlarge the Commission, chiefly or wholly, by the appointment of Assistant Commissioners, charged particularly with the duties of Inspectors.The concluding chapter, on asylum construction, may be considered supplementary. Its chief intent is to develope a principle generally ignored, although (unless the arguments in support of it fail) one of great[Pg viii] importance if asylums are to serve, not as simple refuges for lunatics, but as instruments for treating them.This résumé of the heads of subjects discussed in the ensuing pages will, on the one hand, show that the present is not to be reckoned as a medical treatise,


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