Seclusion, locking up patients in isolation, has a long history in psychiatry (Hunter and MacAlpine, 1963). John Conolly (1856), for example, though an advocate of non-restraint, defended the practice: ‘That salutory exclusion of causes of excitement from an already irritated brain, has been so unjustly stigmatized as solitary imprisonment’. Even so, many of his contemporaries reviled seclusion. Indeed, experience over the years has shown that such limitations of patients' liberty need to be carried out under scrutiny, otherwise abuses may take place. Patients who give staff trouble may be secluded as a punishment or kept in seclusion for long periods without proper attention. For this reason, therefore, doctors need always to take particular care to see that this form of management is carefully regulated.
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