Blog Posts - Medical History



Were Cures Worse Than the Condition?

By the middle and late 1800s, so-called “heroic” medicine (in which extraordinary measures to cure a condition often endangered the patient) had been abandoned. However, patients were sometimes little better off calling a doctor than if t...

A Remarkable Woman

Susan La Flesche Picotte was born in 1865 to the last recognized chief of the Omaha Indian tribe, Chief Joseph La Flesche (Iron Eye). She went to the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey and then returned to her reservation to teach at...

Madness in a Modern World Part Two

Life has always been stressful, so what was it about the nineteenth-century world that increased stress so much that alienists thought it contributed to a rising rate of madness (see last post)? Change itself brings stress, of course, and nineteenth-...

Suffering from anorexia, Miriam to go on leave as Senate term expires

Outgoing Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago will continue her medical leave with only several weeks to go before her Senate term expires next month. In a brief letter to Senate President Franklin Drilon dated May 24, the veteran legislator explained t...
by The Filipino Scribe on May 24, 2016

Madness in a Modern World

Politicians who supported an asylum exclusively for Indians often justified the need by parroting the claims of alienists. These specialists in mental illness maintained that the pressures of the modern world led to an increase in insanity. The fact...

You Get What You Pay For

The superintendents at most asylums had the best of intentions when it came to patient care. They understood (for that era) what kind of help patients needed and what kind of attendants could best provide it. Most asylums had rules of conduct for sta...

Off to the Poorhouse

Though early American society embraced self-sufficiency, people in authority did recognize that some people could not provide for themselves (widows/orphans/disabled) and that a person could fall upon hard times despite their best efforts. Churches a...

Cruel Through and Through

Insanity was a cruel condition, and its victims suffered doubly: their minds caused them unease or suffering, and then caretakers typically punished their bodies. Though physicians eventually discerned that mental illness was not an incurable disease...

Early Madness

Early treatments for madness were as crude as those for physical ailments (see last two posts) and seldom involved physicians. Restraint would be a primary means of control. Households often chained a violent member or confined him or her in a strong...

A Layman’s Doctorin’

Early settlers did not necessarily trust doctors (see last post) and were often able to circumvent seeing one by simply “reading up” on medicine, themselves. In this, they didn’t always lag so far behind a university-trained doctor,...

Pioneer Medicine

American medical doctors in the nineteenth century were not the respected professionals they are today, mainly because their training was so poor. The public had little confidence in their abilities; many people with experience and a few good referen...

Reasonable Rehabilitation

The change in attitude between the old-style treatment of the insane and the new moral treatment’s philosophy (introduced by Pinel and Tuke) cannot be emphasized enough. Though some of the worst cruelties and neglect had fallen out of favor by...

Investigations of Little Value

Very likely, all insane asylums were inspected on a fairly regular basis, and because of that, it would seem impossible that terrible conditions could continue to exist as they obviously did in many places. However, investigators had to care enough t...

Limitations of Inspections

Many researchers have wondered how inspectors failed to note the shortcomings of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, since it was inspected many times over the course of its existence. Most asylums were inspected regularly, yet like visitors to the...

Empty Yourself

Early alienists typically believed that an insane person needed to eliminate something from the body in order to get well. Copious bleeding and/or purging were popular ways to deplete a maniac’s excessive energy or excitement, but many alienist...

How to Commit

Few patients went to insane asylums voluntarily; most were committed by physicians called in once concerned family members decided a patient’s behavior had reached some sort of tipping point. Committing a patient to an asylum should have been a...

Early Thoughts on Insanity

The more settled eastern states generated most of the research and theory concerning insanity in the 1800s. Most asylum superintendents were both born and educated in the east, and the region produced and trained most asylum superintendents for many...

Lucid Lunatics

  One of the most heartbreaking–and frightening–aspects of treatment in an insane asylum was that so many patients probably were not insane. Native American patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians were rarely evaluated by an...

DOUBLE VISION in the ER - DO THEY SEE WHAT I SEE?

My friend and colleague Vickie Cammack and I are co-writing a book of reflections on caregiving.  Vickie and I would love to know your thoughts about our work so far!  This is the first instalment by Vickie from a section we're wo...

Asking about Miriam Santiago’s medical history is fair game

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago remains defiant in her refusal to release even a summary of her medical history, despite calls from several individuals most notably Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio of the UP Center for Women’s Studies. According to...
by The Filipino Scribe on Oct 28, 2015


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