On the State of Lunacy and the Legal Provision for the Insaneby John T. Arlidge
The number of the Insane, and the legal provision requisite for their protection, care, and treatment, are subjects which will always recommend themselves to public attention and demand the interest alike of the political economist, the legislator, and the physician. To the first, the great questions of the prevalence of Insanity in the community, its increase or… See more details below
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The number of the Insane, and the legal provision requisite for their protection, care, and treatment, are subjects which will always recommend themselves to public attention and demand the interest alike of the political economist, the legislator, and the physician. To the first, the great questions of the prevalence of Insanity in the community, its increase or decrease, its hereditary character, and others of the same kind, possess importance in relation to the general prosperity and advance of the nation; to the second devolves the duty of devising measures to secure the protection both of the public and the lunatic, with due regard to the personal liberty, and the proper care and treatment, of the latter; to the last belongs the practical application of many of the provisions of the law, besides the exercise of professional skill in the management and treatment of the insane.
Moreover it will not be denied that, owing to the intimate manner in which he is concerned with all that relates to the lunatic, with all the details of the laws regulating his custody and general treatment, as well as with the institutions in which he is detained, with the features of his malady, and with all his wants, the physician devoted to the care of the Insane is well qualified to offer suggestions and recommendations to the legislator. Hence the present pages, in which the aim is to examine the present state of lunacy; the advantages to be gained by early treatment; and the adequacy of the existing legal provision for the Insane; and to offer some suggestions for improving the condition, and for amending the laws relating to the care and treatment, of this afflicted class of our fellow-creatures.
The whole subject of the efficiency of the Lunacy Laws and of their administration, occupies just now a prominent place in public attention, owing to the rapid multiplication of County Asylums and the constantly augmenting charges entailed by them; to the prevalent impression that Insanity is rapidly increasing; to recent agitation in our Law Courts respecting the legal responsibility of the Insane and the conditions under which they should be subjected to confinement, and still more to the proposed legislation on the matter during the present Session of Parliament. It would be a great desideratum could the Lunacy Laws be consolidated, and an arrest take place in the almost annual additions and amendments made to them by Parliament; but, perhaps, this is next to impracticable, owing to the attempts at any systematic, effectual, and satisfactory legislation for the Insane, being really of very recent date, and on that account subject to revisions enforced by experience of its defects and errors. However, the present time appears singularly suited to make the attempt at consolidation, so far as practicable, inasmuch as the appointment of a special committee of the House of Commons on the Lunacy Laws, furnishes the means for a complete investigation into existing defects, and for receiving information and suggestions from those practically acquainted with the requirements of the Insane, and with the operations of existing enactments.
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