An extract from the recently published memoirs of Dr. Anthony Daniels who was, for a couple of decades, a consultant psychiatrist at a large Birmingham hospital, which he claims was located in the midst of a ‘slum’ and catered solely for ‘slum dwellers’. I wonder how many of his colleagues suspected that he was simultaneously waging a long and bloody secret war against his ‘underclass’ patients in a charming little right-of-centre publication called The Spectator under the nom de guerre Theodore Dalrymple (taken from a PG Wodehouse short story). The book is entitled ‘Fool or Physician: the Memoirs of a Skeptical Doctor’. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about that one.
‘I began to wonder, as I saw a crop of self poisoners every day, whether a hefty fine would not be more appropriate than empathy and false promises of help to come. This was certainly the view of the casualty department staff, who washed out the stomachs of the overdosers not so much for medical reasons, but in the vindictive hope that so unpleasant a procedure would discourage them from repeating their action (it was a vain hope). Once a young girl, well-known to the hospital for her repeated overdoses, swallowed the contents of a bottle of mild analgesic, which she assumed was harmless because it was so widely available without prescription. But she had miscalculated, blood tests showed that she had irreparably damaged her liver. It was not without a certain exultation that she was informed of her unavoidable and imminent death (she was still conscious).’
‘What sweet revenge it was on all the patients who had tormented staff by taking overdoses.’
‘Patients often held the threat of suicide over us like the sword of Damocles. I was once called to see a girl of twenty who was in psychotherapy with a social worker. The latter was at the end of her tether because the patient, who slashed her wrists regularly, was at the window threatening to jump out unless the social worker devoted even more time to her. I pointed out to the patient that as the window was not very high up she might only break her ankle. (…..). Why not go to a window a couple of storeys higher up? Or better still, find another building to jump off, a small favour to ask.’
Interesting technique. I wonder if he used it on any of his other parasuicidal patients and whether it ever actually worked.
Make of it what you will.
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