Monday, July 28, 2008

UK government locked up typhoid sufferers in asylum

The BBC reports that women who were chronic carriers of typhoid were locked up in a mental asylum from 1907 to as late as the 1990s. They were locked up as a risk to public health (note it was women, not men). The hospital - LongGrove - closed in 1992. In 1956 there were 26 and it was reported they were "deteriorated mentally". Unsurprising as they were physically sick, locked up as if they were mentally ill and dangerous. Almost all were incarcerated and died there. By 1972, most surviving had been cured and were relocated in non-isolation wards in the same institution.

The women effectively had life imprisonment, and isolated in a mental institution, even though they were simply infectious, not with any psychiatric condition. In the TV report on Newsnight, one nurse said it was prison like, the patients were seen as "objects" and life was not good. She talked of the women she looked after, saying most were not mentally ill. The tragedy of this case is that the women are dead. Moreso, the UK Department of Health denies that there was any such policy, although there remain powers to incarcerate carriers of disease. The state, meaning good for the masses, destroyed the lives of a minority - not by isolating them in a medical facility but imprisoning them out of sight and out of mind. Nobody will ever be accountable.

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