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On May 6, 1946,Lifemagazine

published "Bedlam 1946," an


expos of two state hospitals:
Pennsylvania's Byberry and
Ohio's Cleveland State. To a
country shaken by recent
revelations ofNazi atrocities,
the pictures were deeply
affecting.

"All of a sudden America sees these photos that


look like concentration camp photos. You see people
huddled naked along walls, strapped to benches -and it really is this descent into this shameful
moment. And the country did say, we have to do
something about this."- Robert Whitaker, writer

A patient
lies
unattende
d at
Cleveland
State
Mental
Hospital

Through public
neglect and
legislative pennypinching, state after
state has allowed its
institutions for the
care and cure of the
mentally sick to
degenerate into little
more than
concentration camps
on the Belsen

A patient at
the
Cleveland
State
Mental

Male
patients at
an institution
for mental
illness in
Ohio

Pilgrim State
Hospital
inmates, 1936

In a patient's
room at
Cleveland
State Mental
Hospital

Court and grand-jury records


document scores of deaths of
patients following beatings by
attendants. Hundreds of
instances of abuse, falling just
short of manslaughter, are
similarly documented. And
reliable evidence, from
hospital after hospital,
indicates that these are but a
tiny fraction of the beatings
that occur, day after day, only
to be covered up by a tacit
conspiracy of mutually

Yet beatings
and murders are
hardly the most
significant of the
indignities we
have heaped
upon most of the
400,000 guiltless
patient-prisoners
of over 180 state
metal
institutions.

Worst of all, for these wards of society we provide physicians, nurses


and attendants in numbers far below even the minimum standards
set by state rules. Institutions that would be seriously unmanned even
if not overcrowded find themselves swamped with 30%, 50% and
even 100% more patients than they were built to hold. These are not
wartime conditions but have existed for decades. Restraints, seclusion
and constant drugging of patients become essential in wards where
one attendant must herd as many as 400 mentally deranged
charges.
Response
- How do you think the public responded
to the article?
- How do you think the government and
its institutions responded?
- What were the possible consequences?

Read the article on the blog


Bedlam 1946

Response
1. This article appeared in 1946,
One Flew Over the Cuckoos
Nest was published in 1962,
sixteen years later. Is this
content therefore relevant to
the context of the novel?
Explain?
2. Is there any historical
information here that directly
links to elements of Keseys
novel?
3. How is the ward and hospital
presented in Keseys novel
different to the information

The crisis in state mental


hospitals motivated Dr. Walter
Freeman to devise a simple
version of the lobotomy
procedure, one that could be
used on a mass scale. Due to
the situation in public mental
health institutions and the
publics awareness authorities
had an appetite for
alternative solutions.