Legal cartoons and humorous comment (c) Paul Brennan. All rights reserved.

I decided on 101 reasons as I didn’t want to depress the entire legal profession by having 1,001.
Paul Brennan, Lawyer, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Bedlam in here

In 1247 Bedlam started as St Mary of Bethlehem dedicated to prayer and the poor.  It attracted lunatics (those affected by the moon). In those days, madness was your own fault. Fortunately, the possession by devils could be fixed by the church using techniques such as boring a hole in your head to let the devils out. Other treatments were spring bleeding and flogging.

Patients who could not be cured were released. But an outpouring of public sympathy enabled further wards to be built for the incurable so that they could be put back in.

It was a money making business. Families had to pay a fee and establish that their mad family member was also poor. Bedlam became a tourist attraction; Samuel Pepys took his two nephews on a day out. It was argued that tourists not only provided fees but their visits helped to supervise the inmates.

There was competition in the asylum business from the York Retreat established in 1796 by the Quakers who had no medical training and tried kindness, which was quite successful.

In 1815, an enquiry found inmates who were kept in cells semi-naked with just a blanket. It was explained that these were the incontinents, clothing just made matters worse. Also, one American sailor was said to have been locked in a cage for 10 years as he had wrists too thin for manacles. In fact, it was 9 years, it was not a cage, it was a cell, his arms were pinned to his side and a chain was around his neck so that he could be dragged nearer to the cell door for inspection and other purposes.

In 1845, parliament appointed Lunacy Commissioners to oversee asylums.


In 2004, parliament appointed a Legal Services Commissioner to oversee lawyers. We had hoped for kindness.


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