Mr. Gladstone, with that candour which a great Statesman can afford, once said, “Government is a rough business, and the results are most unsatisfactory.” Unfortunately no great psychiatrist has described the present state of our knowledge and treatment of schizophrenia in an equally robust phrase; but surely, “rough business and unsatisfactory results” would not be an unfair summing up ?
We have now known of this illness for nearly half a century, and yet our understanding of it is slight and our useful information scanty. This is not because we have been idle, but because our efforts have been poorly rewarded. Thousands of papers are written every decade; tens of thousands of observations are made; there is no lack of opportunity for studying patients when about one hospital bed in five in this country is occupied by a schizophrenic, yet we are still entirely ignorant of the cause of this disease. There are, it is true, numerous theories, but none is generally accepted. We have one form of treatment, deep insulin, which produces remission of symptoms in some cases and what seems to be a cure in others, but even the value of this treatment is hotly disputed. Because deep insulin is a purely empirical procedure the psychiatrist is always tempted to become preoccupied with details of technique so that he forgets, or at least becomes less aware of our fundamental ignorance.
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