Wrongful confinement

Author: A.C. Munro

Title: ‘A Case of Moral Insanity’, The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, Vol. 4 October, 1878. pp. 276-281.

Keywords: moral nature, moral rectitude, dipsomania, hysterical, subdivisions, mental constitution, feigned insanity, mystery, fictions, fact, imposture.

Pages: Introduction |  1  |   2  |   3  |   4  |  5  |   6  |  7  |   


Written by a psychological physician, this article describes a case of wrongful confinement from an entirely different angle: a case of feigned moral insanity.

The significance of the article lies in its treatment of the shifting boundaries of insanity, and its illustration of a classic case of moral insanity. Like monomania, moral insanity did not impair the intellectual faculties. Defined by ‘emotional’ and ‘behavioral’ aberrations, it became increasingly confused with socially-deviant and socially-inept behaviors such as criminality and eccentricity. The consequent problem with expanding psychiatric classifications was that it portrayed madness as a widening social problem. Though monomania and moral insanity were eventually accepted by the medical community, they remained diagnoses hotly contested by the lay-public, not least because of the difficulty of false diagnosis due to their multiple clinical attributes (and therefore the possibility of wrongful confinement in asylums).

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