The conditions established to regulate the admission of patients into lunatic asylums have given rise, in every country, to a great deal of discussion. On the one hand, many unacquainted with medicine are inclined to dread the abuse of the power to confine individuals not really insane under the pretext of insanity, and with more or less criminal intent; therefore these persons contend that admissions to asylums should be preceded by intricate formalities and repeated inquiries, with the interference of some public authority, such as a commission of either judicial or administrative officers. On the other hand, physicians advocate the necessity of prompt recourse to an asylum, not only for the patient's own benefit, but for his family's welfare; they demonstrate that a man labouring under acute insanity cannot be left to himself during the time required to set in motion the working of such complicated machinery as that proposed to be brought into action prior to his admission into a hospital; they further reject all interference of the public authorities to this end, as hurtful to private family feeling and the maintenance of professional secrecy, demanding, likewise, the greatest facilities for easy admission, guaranteed, nevertheless, by any number of subsequent examinations, or other means of inquiry into the case; and, finally, they hold that such supposed illegal confinements do not exist, since it has not been proved that any one really of sound mind has ever been shut up in any asylum, and that, therefore, the liberty of the subject is in no danger whatever. So in this respect we may rest confident, seeing that the past gives us full assurance for the future. Such is, upon the whole, the main point of dispute in every discussion on the subject, which happens to spring up again and again in different countries.
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