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not, of course, pretend that a lunatic should in no case be subjected to personal restraint; that would be manifestly absurd; but I do say that the cases in which such restraint is otherwise than noxious are exceptional. These cases may be reduced to three classes.
ist. Dangerous lunatics: those, that is to say, who have either been guilty of some acts of violence, which in a sane man would be criminal, or have shown such a tendency to violent outbreaks as renders their unrestricted freedom a menace to themselves or others. The public safety requires that these should be kept in detention, and whatever name we give to the place where they are kept, and whatever may be its accessories, it is, as regards them, in object, and in effect, a prison.
2nd. Pauper lunatics: in which class I include not only those who are technically paupers, supported wholly at the public expense, but also all those whose means are insufficient for their maintenance, and who therefore must rely more or less for their support upon the action of charity, public or private. This case is governed by the same economical considerations as that of sane paupers (save that the element of individual option is of course excluded), and just as in that case we found that relief can be most properly and economically administered through the machinery of the workhouse, we are lead in this case to adopt that of the public asylum.
3rd. There are a few instances of persons affected with insanity, either of a temporary nature, or so connected with some other malady-ordinarily epileptic—as to require and be benefited by systematic medical treatment, and which if not so treated will probably become permanent or be otherwise sensibly aggravated. To meet such cases as these it may be necessary to permit medical men, who choose so to occupy themselves, to receive isolated patients, and to detain them in their houses under proper control. But under no circumstances should more than one such inmate
be permitted in any house. Cases of this sort are always aggravated by contact-I would have said contagion, but that that word has a technical meaning, and would therefore be liable to be misunderstood.
In all cases not coming within some one of these classes any forcible restraint of the lunatic, even under the most favourable regulations, is always an evil, often a cruelty.
In all this, as will have been seen, there is no place for the private asylum; nor can I conceive any case in which such an institution could operate for the benefit of any lunatic. So far as these places have any legitimate function at all, they operate not for the benefit of the lunatic but of his relatives. It is, no doubt, highly convenient to be relieved of the care, perhaps also of the incumbrance, of some imbecile brother, or son, or nephew, sometimes even to conceal the fact of his existence, and it is probably not always realized at what a sacrifice to the individual this is ordinarily accomplished. The hopeless idiot, indeed, apparently devoid of all but the merest animal sensation, may suffer nothing from being removed from all family associations, so long as his food is brought to him regularly, and he is sufficiently housed and clothed; but the ordinary “harmless lunatic,” the person subject to more or less intense aberration of intellect, is keenly alive to such surroundings, and suffers greatly, more than is apparent to the mere casual observer, when deprived of them. We justly reprobate as inhuman the conduct of those who shut up their afflicted relatives in their own houses in secret chambers, and study rather to conceal their existence than to provide for their comfort; but I am unable to take any more lenient view of the conduct of those who, for their own ease or advantage, deny to these unfortunates the greatest mitigation of their misfortune which their case admits of, personal intercourse with those to whom they are attached, and condemn them to a loveless existence, with no better associates than their companions in misfortune and their
common jailors. Even for the custody of the really insane, then, the private asylum serves no useful end, but it is as an engine for the incarceration of the sane, or partially insane, that it becomes a truly dangerous evil.
If we rightly deprecate the forcible detention even of the harmless lunatic, as imposing upon him an unnecessary hardship, what are we to say of the lot of those, not, I fear, so few in number as is ordinarily supposed, who though in fact perfectly competent to take care of themselves, find themselves deprived of their liberty upon a charge of insanity, arising not out of any act of maniacal violence, but sometimes from the presence of some harmless delusion, not materially affecting the general conduct of the victim ; sometimes from some eccentricity or weakness which the timidity or suspiciousness of friends or relatives has magnified into madness; sometimes from motives of mere cupidity, to prevent the anticipated alienation or dissipation of an inheritance to which the incarcerator has, or fancies he has, some claim; not seldom, I fear, from deliberate wickedness, which takes advantage of the imperfections of the law to put out of sight as a lunatic some one whose presence is felt to be dangerous or inconvenient.
I know that I shall, on this part of the case, be referred to the various agencies provided by law for the inspection of asylums, and be assured that it is practically impossible, in the face of these safeguards, that any sane man could be long kept in detention who was even reasonably anxious to take advantage of the opportunities for his liberation afforded him by the law. Now I will not only rely upon the stories which have been told, with considerable plausibility, of steps having been taken in some of these asylums to prepare for the coming visitation, either by concealing the dangerous inmates, or by even darker and more reprehensible practices, because, so far as I have been able to learn, the authority for these statements rests on common rumour only-tradition as I may say—and I cannot find that any
specific instance of any such practice has been established by credible testimony. But even without this it must be obvious that no mere official-and therefore inevitably more or less perfunctory-inspection can ever suffice for the prevention or detection of fraud when opposed to the resources of interested unscrupulousness. And indeed the law itself seems in this respect to play into the hands of the incarcerator. So long as the asylum is looked upon as the fitting house for the harmless lunatic, nothing short of almost superhuman energy, determination, and sagacity, upon the part of the visitor would suffice to compete, with reasonable probability of success, with the contrivances at the disposal of those who are interested in prolonging the imprisonment. It is so easy to suggest the existence of “delusions,” which the victim cannot confute, nay, may even in ignorance of the suggestion, appear to confirm, and which the visitor, unacquainted with the history of the alleged lunatic, has no means of testing: or to speak confidentially about lucid intervals and dangerous paroxysms, assertions which from their very nature defy investigation. We have all read, in Captain Marryat's novel, how Peter Simple was detained as a lunatic by his uncle, the alleged delusion being that he thought his name was Simple, and that he was nephew and next heir to Lord Privilege : and how, as these "delusions were the exact truth, Peter was made the unconscious instrument of his own continued detention, till an accident, such as seldom occurs in real life, led to his being seen and recognised by a friend of too much importance to be ignored, and too much interested in his case to be easily put off. This is of course but a novelist's conceit, but it will serve as an apt illustration of what the law allows, nay, even ignorantly abets, and is for this purpose not a whit less cogent than if it were an ascertained historical event. The fact that such a thing is possible is as complete a condemnation of the system as a safeguard against fraud, as if it were a daily occurrence.
Again, it must be borne in mind that once immured in the private asylum the victim, sane or insane, is practically cut off from all communication with the outer world. The law, indeed, is not directly to blame for this aggravation of his lot: the law requires all letters written by him to be forwarded to their respective destinations; but the all but universal practice is that all such documents are transmitted at once to the incarcerator. Except by accident or some unusual cunning on the part of the lunatic, no information about him can be obtained by any private friend or disinterested relation which the author of his detention desires to suppress.
And it must not be forgotten that in this “ game” the incarcerator runs but little risk, the asylum-keeper none at all. For while he has all the chances in his favour which I have endeavoured to point out, he can in the last resort, if all else fails, fall back upon the duly recorded certificate of two medical men, upon which the patient was originally admitted; and this, even if insufficient to prevent the escape of the victim then, will, at all events, secure immunity for the past. And this brings me to the point which I consider the crowning blot upon our law on this subject as it stands, the one exception of any importance to the commendation which I was enabled to bestow upon the administration of the Lunacy Office, an the foundation of all or most of the other abuses to which I have adverted : I mean the power of procuring a man to be adjudged a lunatic without a public inquiry. But for this power, the unlawful detention of sane men, and the unnecessary detention of harmless lunatics, would become as rare, and as easy of detection and punishment, as any other case of false imprisonment, and this end once attained the worst evils of the system would speedily disappear.
I have already pointed out how the simple certificate of two medical men, given under conditions calculated to deprive it of all weight-unsworn, not subject to cross-examination, not giving any grounds for the opinion expressed,