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The Beer Dietary in Asylums


There can be no doubt that there is a growing feeling on the part of the Medical Superintendents of our large asylums to take into consideration the question whether on the whole the discontinuance of beer as a beverage is not a moral as well as a financial advantage, and it is worth recording in this Journal that at the present time, to our knowledge, there are seven and twenty pauper asylums in England in which the Committees, with the approval of the Superintendents, have discontinued the use of beer as an article of ordinary diet. The question, we need hardly say, is a practical one, and has nothing whatever to do with “teetotalism;” the course pursued should be determined by what is found to be best for all concerned, and if beer at meals is useless—if it can be shown that the health of the asylum population does not suffer from its removal—and if, as alleged, there is a moral gain not only among patients but attendants, then we must acknowledge that common-sense and humanity would alike sanction its discontinuance. For the Medical Superintendent, the health of the patients and the good order of the household are the primary considerations; we must not allow the idea of saving money to interfere for a moment with these objects. If, however, on these grounds we can recommend this dietetic change, the saving to the ratepayers is not a small matter. They are always entitled to consideration, but more especially are they so at the present day. The Cumberland and Westmorland Asylum was, we believe, the first to make the experiment, at its opening, under the superintendency of Dr. Clouston, and the present Superintendent, Dr. J. A. Campbell,∗ regards it with great favour as an unquestionable success. When visiting the Lenzie Asylum, last autumn, we enquired of Dr. Rutherford what plan he adopted, and were informed that he did not give his patients stimulants, although so many are employed in out-of-door work. In December last, the Visiting Justices of the Devon County Asylum decided that at the commencement of 1883 the daily supply of beer should be entirely discontinued, and that in future neither it nor spirits should be allowed unless ordered by the medical staff. On going round the Derby County Asylum in October of last year, we found the energetic Superintendent of that institution had gradually diminished the use of beer, and contemplated its entire discontinuance. This course has now been adopted, and Dr. Lindsay is sanguine as to its satisfactory working. We transcribe the remarks made by him in his last Report:—“In a few years it will probably be found that in the majority of English pauper asylums, beer will not be given as an article of ordinary diet; the minority at present giving do beer will soon, I believe, be converted into a majority. I am of opinion—an opinion, I believe, shared by many Asylum Medical Superintendents—that the small allowance (half-a-pint) of asylum beer of the quality

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Dr. Campbell writes:—“I use really good liquor for those who need it, and give it when I think it useful. I have always thought it foolish to give dements, criminals and imbeciles, beer as an article of diet. If you do give it call it by its proper name, a luxury.” (May 23, 1888.)

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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The Beer Dietary in Asylums

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