Mad doctors
Lunacy and the asylum
in Medical misadventure in an age of professionalisation, 1780–1890
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Medical practitioners who were deemed by their nineteenth-century contemporaries to be suffering from severe mental-health problems frequently warranted an asylum admission. This chapter considers the permeability of different institutions to medical patients across England and Wales by a simple count of asylum patients whose former occupation was listed as medical in the census of 1881. The case notes compiled by asylum superintendents provide one way to assess the reactions of doctors to mental fragility among their peers. The potential and pitfalls of case note scrutiny have been surveyed for Gartnavel Royal Asylum in Glasgow, and the generalities observed there are broadly applicable to the case notes of English county asylums. The chapter argues that case notes could sometimes achieve a particular pitch of poignancy when the medical author (frequently the asylum superintendent) was annotating the case of a fellow medical man.

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