It is astonishing how a medical case, simple in its character, obvious in its nature, and of which the diagnosis does not present serious difficulty to a mental physician, may become lost in a fog, and obscured by a number of irrelevant questions, when it comes into a Court of Law. Conflicting interests, the contention of lawyers, the technicalities which bar the admission of this or that particular fact in evidence, which is important in a scientific investigation—in which truth alone is the object of the inquirer—the mass of details which are crowded into the case, the probable ignorance and obtuseness of some of those who have to form a judgment; the necessarily imperfect medical knowledge of counsel, and also of the Judge himself; the prejudice of the public in regard to asylums for the insane—all these circumstances combine to prevent a dispassionate and scientific inquiry into a case of alleged lunacy. Under such circumstances, the wonder perhaps is not that juries often blunder on questions of lunacy, but that they manage, as often as they do, to blunder on the right side. So has it been in the action of Nowell v. Williams—in which the plaintiff sought to recover damages for false imprisonment on the ground that he had been confined in Northumberland House, he being at the time sane. He was in medical practice in Cornwall Road, London. He passed the College of Surgeons and the Hall in 1860–61, and became L.R.C.P. (Edin.) in 1865. His age is 43.
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