Click to listen: On a Country Road.
29 minutes 14 seconds
There’s a lunatic on the run after butchering a doctor, a nurse and a ward attendant with a meat cleaver in a nearby mental hospital on Long Island, New York. Featuring Cary Grant, Jeannette Nolan, and Cathy Lewis, this classic thriller story was Written for Suspense by Walter Bazzar and first aired on November 16, 1950.
Here’s a song for you from the two best singers on earth. Happy Holidays!
“Tous les hommes sont fous, et, malgré tous leurs soins
Ne diffèrent entre eux que du plus ou du moins.”
“All men are mad, and, spite of all finesse,
The madness differs but in more or less.”
Taunton State Hospital
Construction of the State Lunatic Hospital at Taunton “Taunton State Hospital” began in 1851. Designed by Elbridge Boyden, this neo-classical style kirkbride building opened in 1854 and accepted patients until 1975.
Taunton prized it’s industrial work as an effective form of therapy, and won an award at the American Medico-Psychological Association in 1914 for the “best craft leather work, punched brass, burnt wood, brushes, loom woven rugs, ash baskets and hooked rugs” (Annual Report, 1915) shown by any State Hospital. The patients were supplied with a “plain but nutritious diet, an abundant supply of fresh air, regular out-door exercise for all with whom it is practicable [...] and regular habits, regular hours, and the avoidance of all excesses, together with a strict enforcement of the laws of cleanliness” (Annual Report, 1858).
In the earliest days of the hospital, the epileptics and feeble-minded were also admitted, which contributed to over-crowding, until separate institutions were built to care for them as well as additional hospitals to care for the increasing amount of mentally ill patients.
In 1898, the female infirmary opened and admitted seventy patients. It had an open fireplace, which gave a “cheerful aspect to the ward, besides being a good ventilator” (Annual Report, 1898) and the attic was finished to house the night nurses. The hospital received local newspapers free of charge and books were frequently donated.
1 Sixty-First Annual Report for the Trustees of the Taunton State Hospital (1915). Boston: Wright and Potter. Print.
2 Fifth Annual Report for the Trustees of the Taunton State Hospital (1858). Boston: Wright and Potter. Print.
3 Forty-Fifth Annual Report for the Trustees of the Taunton State Hospital (1898). Boston: Wright and Potter. Print.
This class action was commenced on May 30, 1974 by Terri Lee Halderman, a minor retarded resident of Pennhurst State School and Hospital, against that institution and various state officials responsible for operating it and for providing mentally retarded persons who are in state custody with a residential habilitative placement.
The court found that Pennhurst was unsafe, inhumane and inadequate to serve its intended habilitative purpose and that the state of Pennsylvania has embraces the concept of providing habilitative services for mentally retarded persons in as “normal” an environment as is possible, i.e., in a non-institutional setting.
An except of the 1. Conditions at Pennhurst are as follows:
While at Pennhurst, the residents regress, bot intellectually and behaviorally; instead of learning self-care skills, they lose them.3 Maladaptive behavior4 and regression result from over-crowded wards, lack of privacy, lack of training programs, and an oppressive environment (id. at 1303-1305, 1308-1309). The district court also found all these conditions to be typical at Pennhurst. See U.S. Ex. 48, photos 1-10, 15-17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26-33, 40-44, 50, 52-56, 97-108.5
3 Terri Lee Halderman lost her ability to speak (446 F. Supp. at 1309). Linda Taub, who is blind in addition to being retarded, spent her time sitting and rocking; she was strapped to a wheel chair, though she is able to walk, so the staff “would know exactly where Linda was.” Nancy Beth Bowman developed maladaptive behavior — biting and pushing (id. at 1309-1310).
4 Maladaptive behavior includes rhythmic motions such as rocking, as well as self injury or severe aggression. This behavior is associated with lack of stimulation and boredom (Tr. 1-96 to 1-98, 5-112). Moreover, exclusive association with others who engage in deviant behavior encourages maladaptive behavior (Tr. 1-151, 2-59 to 5-92, 5-113).
5 There is often excrement and urine on ward floors. Infectious diseases are common (446 F. Supp. at 1308). Obnoxious odors and excessive noise are prevalent. The noise level is frequently so high that many residents stop speaking. Meals are eaten in large groups without adequate staff supervision where residents may steal food from each other, so some do not get enough to eat (ibid.). U.S. Ex. 48, photos 34, 36, 37.
The district court also found that the residents at Pennhurst are harmed physically (446 F. Supp. at 1308-1309).6 Many physical injuries are the product of staff neglect and abuse.7
6 Plaintiff Terri Lee Halderman, a resident for eleven years, suffered lost teeth, fractures fingers and toes, and numerous lacerations (446 F. Supp. at 1309)/ Plaintiffs DiNolfi (a resident for 34 years), Robert and Theresea Sobetsky (residents since 1971), Hight (a resident for two and one-half weeks), Sorotos (a resident for seven years), Larry and Kenny Taylor (residents for 14 years), Bowman and Taub all received physical injuries, including one resulting in loss of an eye, bruises, bites, scratches, welts, and injuries causing lost teeth (id. at 1309-1310).
During the single month of January 1977 there were 25 major and 833 minor injuries reported (id. at 1308-1309).
7 Staff neglect has even resulted in deaths (446 F. Supp. at 1308-1309).
In addition, the voids left by the lack of proper habilitation is filled by extreme use of physical and chemical restraints and seclusion (id. at 1303-1308).8 Physical restraints and seclusion not only have caused physical injuries, but they also prevent residents from learning and using self-care skills (446 F. Supp. at 1307, 1310).9
8 One resident was physically restrained for 651 hours in June 1976, 720 hours in August 1976, 674 hours in September 1976, and 647 hours in October 1976 (446 F. Supp. at 1307).
The “extraordinary high” (id. at 1307) administration of drugs at Pennhurst is also harmful. It not only causes hazardous side effects, e.g., hypersensitivity to sunlight, inability to maintain balance and gait, inflammation, bleeding and growth of gum tissue; it also impedes the habilitation of Pennhurst residents when used as a control device (id. at 1307-1308).10
9 The seclusion rooms at Pennhurst have hard surfaces, exposed radiators and other dangerous features (446 F. Supp. at 1306 n. 34; see U.S. Ex. 48 photos 97, 98, 100, 101). Seclusion is often used as a substitute for staff attention (id. at 1306).
10 Larry Taylor was given unnecessary medication that caused him to fall asleep in school (446 F. Supp. at 1310).
Institutional conditions at Pennhurst infringe fundamental personal freedoms. Physical restraints, drugs, seclusion rooms, and enforced idleness have no “treatment” or “habilitative” justification as they are used at Pennhurst. Where these infringements are deliberate, their purpose is to serve some purely institutional need, not the needs of the residents. Where the conditions, such as the unhealthy environment, the lack of programming, the lack of trained staff, or the lack of protection from physical injuries result from inaction, they do not serve even an institutional need, let alone advance the paramount state purpose of providing care and habilitation to the residents.
In the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Nos. 78-1490, 78-1564, 78-1602 Terri ee Halderman, et. al., United States of America and Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens, et al., Plainiffs-Intervenor-Appelles v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital, et. al., Defendants-Appellees
“I think a chronic insane ward is the most pitiable spectacle of humanity that can possible be imagined. When the patients are not crouching, they sit listlessly on the benches, gazing at nothing in the same direction for hours together, or they go shuffling about, without aim or object, like a blind kitten.” -The New York Times March 7, 1873
Drs. Draper and Lynch performing an Exploratory Laporatomy, which is a surgical procedure involving a large incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity.
Operating Room, 1917
In the images shown below, resident physicians are shown performing a routine treatment for Paresis. Paresis is a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting the brain and central nervous system, caused by a syphilis infection.
This laboratory tested bacteria, blood serum and other bodily fluids in order to properly diagnose patients with diseases, such as syphilis, when in late-stage, can infect the brain causing severe psychological illness:
Bacteriological and Serological Laboratory, 1917
Henry Andrews Cotton, M.D., Medical Director 1907-1930, embraced scientific medicine and urged his staff to perform surgical bacteriology and extract the decayed and impacted teeth of his patients. If the extracted teeth or tooth did not cure the patient, tonsils, sinuses, testicles, ovaries, gall bladders, stomachs, spleens, cervixes, and colons were removed as a source of infection. Prior to the days of statistics and double-blind experiments, his procedures were not viewed as controversial as they are today – they were revolutionary and progressive. Unfortunately, before antibiotics were introduced, postoperative infections killed many of these patients, such as Margaret Fisher, daughter of the wealthy Yale economist Irving Fisher, who underwent colonic surgeries to cure her of her illness, but contracted a streptococcal infection which killed her.
Cotton’s first candidate was a female admitted in 1916 who was recovered of her mental illness a month after an infected molar was extracted and she was discharged from the asylum, never to return again, and lived a healthy fulfilling life.
This man is receiving a radiogram (x-ray) during a dental examination, most-likely to determine whether he has decay and if the decayed teeth are to be extracted, which was a popular treatment, and in many cases, shown effective in curing patients of their mental illness:
Dental Examination, 1917
This is a radiogram of a thirty-six year old male patient’s teeth who suffered from paranoia for five years. Shown in the radiogram are two impacted lower third molars (extreme right and left) with decayed molars next to these impacted teeth, an abscess on the lower incisor, and five capped teeth which are badly infected:
Dental Radiogram, 1917