sábado, outubro 22, 2011

Treating the Mentally Ill

When Dante was writing The Divine Comedy, the insane were believed to be possessed and were burned at the stake. In The Divine Comedy the word “bizarre” first appeared to describe a madman.

When Galileo was proving that the Earth went around the Sun, the insane were given holy water to drink from a church bell. If that didn’t work, they were burned at the stake. Want to guess how many times it worked?

About the time that Heidelberg and Cologne Universities were founded, Bethlehem Hospital in London became an institution for the insane. It was so poorly funded that its inmates were given licenses to go begging for food. The hospital was such an ungoverned mess that the way Bethlehem was pronounced, Bedlam, became a word for uncontrolled madness.

In the years Shakespeare was writing his plays, you could take your family on an outing for six-pence and view the madhouse chamber of horrors where the restrained violent, often egged on by visitors, would snap and snarl at you, or you could be entertained by inmates who believed they were Oliver Cromwell, Julius Caesar, and even the Virgin Mary. Great laughs.

In France, while Lavoisier was proving that air was a mixture of mostly oxygen and nitrogen, the inspector general of French hospitals reported that thousands of lunatics were locked up in prisons without anyone even thinking of administering the slightest remedy. The half-mad mingled with the totally deranged. Some were in chains. Some were free to roam. He called them the step-children of life.

While Harvey was developing his proof of circulation, the inmates at Bedlam were used as guinea pigs. At the end of each May they were all bled, then made to vomit weekly, then purged. The attendants (much less the inmates!) must have dreaded that time of the year.

Into the beginning of the 1800s, when John Dalton introduced the atomic theory into chemistry, the insane were treated with such loony cures as plasters of mashed up Spanish fly, or had the veins in the forehead cut so the head could be bled, removing the insane spirits, presumedly. Later, on an opposite theory, inmates were strapped in a chair called the gyrator that spun the inmate around so more blood would circulate to his head.

In the Soviet Union they tried prolonged sleep therapy on the insane. America used hydrotherapy, placing agitated patients in hot water for days so that blood flow increased to the body’s largest organ, its skin, thus lowering respiration and blood pressure and creating a state of relaxation.

In the 1930s the increase of admissions of patients diagnosed as schizophrenic was so high it was theorized there must be a schizococcus germ that could pass on schizophrenia to an offspring.

The Nazis tested methods of mass murder first on mental patients before they applied them to other undesirable populations. At the start of the Third Reich there were 200,000 patients in mental hospitals. At the end of the Third Reich there were 20,000. An interesting twist in early Nazi civilization is that it was deemed humanitarian to euthanize incurable mental patients, but not Jews. Jews were considered subhuman and so not worthy of euthanization.

One attempted treatment for schizophrenia, as well as depression and psychosis, was — what many people regarded as a kind of euthanasia — the lobotomy. Its main American proponent, Dr. Walter Freeman, would make driving trips across America to stop at state hospitals and perform the procedure he had simplified to the point he felt that a sterile field wasn’t even necessary. First you anesthetized the patient with electro-shock, rolled back his eyelid, place the tip of instrument, a leucotome, which was a modified ice pick, against his tear duct (which is 98 percent sterile) and drove it through his eye socket with a hammer whack, shoved it into the brain and wiggled it around. Forty-thousand people were lobotomized between 1945 and 1955 in America. In 1949, the Portuguese doctor who first did lobotomies was the co-winner of the Nobel prize for medicine and was cited for discovering the value of freeing the brain from the disturbing effects of its pre-frontal lobes.

So…who were the crazy people??


Sempre tive curiosidade em saber como é que os ricos tratam os seus doentes mentais. Será que têm acesso a melhores cuidados médicos? Será que tomam drogas Melhores, mais Modernas, com Melhores resultados? Basicamente o que eu queria saber era se os ricos, só por serem ricos, são Menos Loucos (quando o são) que os outros.

Foi-me dito que não, que é igual a um cidadão normal. Só que o tratamento é feito em casa, onde os médicos vão e há enfermeiras a tomar conta destes pacientes 24 horas por dia.

A diferença é (a grande diferença) - é que os ricos mantêm os seus loucos, os seus esquizofrénicos, escondidos. Lá, no quartinho, com cuidado médico permanente - mas escondidos.

Espantei-me um pouco, nem sei porquê.

Sei que nos Estados Unidos da América pessoas com problemas mentais que cometem crimes horríveis - podem ir parar à cadeia e ser condenadas à morte. Ou seja, não é mentira nenhuma dizer-se que os EUA mata os seus doentes mentais.

Mas como será em países árabes? Como os tratarão lá? Terão acesso a medicamentos? Se não, e se acaso cometem crimes - será que os matam sem apelo nem agravo, sem ter em consideração o seu estado mental?

E em África, como será? Como serão tratados os doentes mentais?

Questões que eu tenho comigo própria... porque, com estas pessoas, não se pode atribuir Culpa. Nem graus de culpa. Façam o que fizerem - não é culpa delas. Não foi o vinho, não foram as drogas, não foram decisões de tomar tais substâncias que facilitaram um eventual crime. Isso não se pode alegar nunca. E eu penso que, havendo crime sem haver Culpa, é algo extremamente difícil de tragar para o ser humano. Nós procuramos sempre culpados - mesmo que eles não existam.

Bem, vou ao banhinho.

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