New History of Psychiatry: LSD Experiments, Insane Acquittals, & More

The December 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore connections between psychology, psychiatry, and philosophy, nineteenth century insane acquittal policy, LSD experiments in the United States Army, the use of ECT for mass killing by the Nazis, and much more. Full details below.

“Con Drury: philosopher and psychiatrist,” by John Hayes. Abstract:

Maurice O’Connor Drury (1907–76), an Irish psychiatrist, is best known for his accounts of his close friendship with the eminent twentieth-century philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. His only book, The Danger of Words (1973), was well received by those who had an interest in the relationship between psychiatry, psychology and philosophy. This article concentrates on Drury’s experiences, studies and writings in these fields.

“Insane acquittees and insane convicts: the rationalization of policy in nineteenth-century Connecticut,” by Lawrence B Goodheart. Abstract:

A current situation in Connecticut of whether a violent insane acquittee should be held in a state prison or psychiatric facility raises difficult issues in jurisprudence and medical ethics. Overlooked is that the present case of Francis Anderson reiterates much of the debate over rationalization of policy during the formative nineteenth century. Contrary to theories of social control and state absolutism, governance in Connecticut was largely episodic, indecisive and dilatory over much of the century. The extraordinary urban and industrial transformation at the end of the Gilded Age finally forced a coherent response in keeping with longstanding legal and medical perspectives.

“LSD experiments by the United States Army,” by Colin A Ross. Abstract:

Extensive LSD testing was conducted by the US Army at Edgewood Arsenal and other locations from 1955 to 1967. A number of different reports have been produced describing the health effects of this testing, including the Veterans Health Initiative Report in 2003. By and large, these reports gloss over and minimize the short and long-term side effects and complications of this testing. However, the reports themselves document frequent, severe complications of the LSD. These side effects were regarded by the Army as having been directly caused by the LSD exposure. In view of the current resurgence of interest in hallucinogens within psychiatry, the sanitized version of the effects of LSD exposure on US soldiers needs to be replaced with a more accurate account.

“From mental hygiene to mental health: ideology, discourses and practices in Franco’s Spain (1939–75),” by Enric J Novella and Ricardo Campos. Abstract:

Based on an analysis of the discourses, the ideological appropriation and the practical influence of mental hygiene in Spanish psychiatry during the early years of the Francoist regime, this article examines its decline and subsequent replacement by the new concept of mental health promoted by the World Health Organization and other international bodies from the mid-twentieth century. The old approach, essentially focused on the prophylaxis of insanity within the framework of a set of interventionist policies of social defence, was thus transformed from the beginning of the 1960s into a much more ambitious and comprehensive project which sought to promote the psychosocial balance and performance of individuals in the context of increasingly socialized health-related discourses and networks of care.

“‘They accused me of strangling her’: epilepsy and violence debate in Croatia at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries,” by Martin Kuhar and Stella Fatović-Ferenčić. Abstract:

Nineteenth-century psychiatry shifted its focus to the brain as the seat of mental disorders. With a new understanding of mental disorders arose the need to consult forensic psychiatrists in cases of criminal acts committed by persons with mental illness. This article focuses on three murders committed by ‘epileptics’ at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries in Croatia. An analysis of these cases will help to situate forensic psychiatry at the turn of the century within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and reveal the authority that forensic experts wielded in the courts. We will argue that Cesare Lombroso’s biological theory of crime, as well as the influence of eugenicists and pharmaceutical companies, shaped the long-standing relationship between epilepsy and violent behaviour.

“A meta-analysis of the core essence of psychopathological entities: an historical exercise in phenomenological psychiatry,” by Guilherme Messas, Melissa Garcia Tamelini, and John Cutting. Abstract:

Two fundamentally different approaches among phenomenological psychopathologists can be discerned. One is what we call fixed essentialism, where the pathognomonic element of, say, schizophrenia is conceived of as a single, enduring and intrinsically morbid way of grasping all entities in the world, including self and body. The other, which we call dialectical essentialism, accounts for the same manifestations of, say, schizophrenia, but through a process which is not life-enduring, and, most critically vis-à-vis the former formulation, is not in itself a single morbid defect: a morbid pattern of world, self and body is achieved by an imbalance between two or more otherwise healthy constituents of the ‘normal’ human being, whose imbalance and attempts to resolve this – the dialectic – induce the ‘morbidity’.

“Mass killing under the guise of ECT: the darkest chapter in the history of biological psychiatry,” by G Gazdag, GS Ungvari, and H Czech. Abstract:

Following its inception, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), rapidly spread all over the world, including Nazi Germany. Paradoxically, at the same time, the euthanasia programme was started in Germany: the extermination of people with intellectual disabilities and severe psychiatric disorders. In Lower Austria, Dr Emil Gelny, who had been granted a specialist qualification in psychiatry after three months of clinical training, took control of two psychiatric hospitals, in Gugging and Mauer-Öhling. In 1944, he began systematically killing patients with an ECT machine, something that was not practised anywhere else before or after, and remains unprecedented in the history of convulsive therapy. He modified an ECT machine, adding extra electrodes, which he fastened onto a victim’s wrists and ankles to administer lethal electric shocks.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.