Library Collections: Document: Full Text

A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 

Page 96:


The two who first attended me did not strike me with their fists or even threaten to do so; but their unconscious lack of consideration for my comfort and peace of mind was torture. They were typical eighteen-dollar-a-month attendants. Another attendant of the same sort, on one occasion, cursed me with a degree of brutality which I prefer not to recall, much less record. And a few days later the climax was appropriately capped when still another eighteen-dollar-a-month attendant perpetrated an outrage which a sane man would have resented to the point of homicide. He was a man of the coarsest type. His hands would have done credit to a longshoreman -- fingers knotted and nearly twice the normal size. Because I refused to obey a peremptory command, and this at a time when I habitually refused on pain even of imagined torture to obey or to speak, this brute not only cursed me with abandon, he deliberately spat upon me. I was a mental incompetent, but like many others in a similar position, I was, both by antecedents and by training, a gentleman. Vitriol could not have seared my flesh more deeply than the venom of this human viper stung my soul! Yet, as I was rendered speechless by delusions, I could offer not so much as a word of protest. I trust that it is not now too late, however, to protest in behalf of the thousands of outraged patients in private and State hospitals whose mute submission to such indignities has never been recorded.


If the owner-superintendent of this particular sanatorium were brought to book for such offenses, what excuse would he offer? A hundred to one he would enter the evasive plea that such outrages were committed not only without his consent but without his suspicion. That he did not expressly countenance such practices I concede. As to his not suspecting that ignorant, untrained, ill-paid attendants do continually outrage the finer feelings of patients, I impeach the truth and the sincerity of such a denial. These owners know what must be the natural consequences of their niggardly policy.


Of their readiness to employ inferior attendants, I shall offer a striking illustration. The attendant who acted as my protector at this sanatorium has given me an affidavit embodying certain facts which, of course, I could not have known at the time of their occurrence. The gist of this sworn statement is as follows: One day a man -- seemingly a tramp -- approached the main building at the sanatorium and inquired for the owner. He soon found him, talked with him a few minutes, and an hour or so later he was sitting at the bedside of an old and infirm man. This aged patient had recently been committed to the institution by relatives who had labored under the common delusion that the payment of a considerable sum of money each week would insure kindly treatment. When this tramp-attendant first appeared, all his visible worldly possessions were contained in a small bundle which he carried under his arm. So filthy were his person and his clothes that he received a compulsory bath and another suit before being assigned to duty. He then began to earn his four dollars and fifty cents a week by sitting several hours a day in the room with the aged man, sick unto death. My informant soon engaged him in conversation. What facts did he elicit? First, that the uncouth stranger never before had worked as an attendant, nor had he ever so much as crossed the threshold of a hospital. His last job had been as a member of a section-gang on a railroad. From the roadbed of a railway to the bedside of a man about to die was indeed a change which might have taxed the adaptability of a more versatile being. But as coarse as he was, this unkempt novice did not abuse his charge, -- except in so far as his inability to interpret or anticipate the wants of the patient contributed to that afflicted one's distress. My own attendant, realizing that the patient in question was suffering most of all for the want of those innumerable attentions which a trained nurse cannot fail to bestow, spent a part of his time in this unhappy room, which was but across the hall from my own. The end soon came. My attendant, whose experience had been a wide one, detected the unmistakable signs of impending death. He forthwith informed the owner of the sanatorium that Mr. -- was in a dying condition, and urged him (a doctor) to repair at once to the bedside of the patient. The doctor refused to comply with the request on the plea that he was, at the time, "too busy." When at last he did visit the room the patient was dead. Then came the supervisor who took charge of the body. As it was being carried from the room this "handy man" of the owner's said: "There goes the best paying patient the institution had; the doctor" (meaning the owner) "was getting eighty-five dollars a week out of him." Of this sum not more than twenty dollars at most could be considered as "cost of maintenance." The remaining sixty-five dollars went into the pocket of the owner. Had the man lived for one year the owner might have pocketed as a profit (so far as this one case was concerned) the neat but wicked sum of thirty-three hundred and eighty dollars. And what would the patient have received? The same privilege of living in neglect and dying neglected.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  59  60  61  62  63  64  65  66  67  68  69  70  71  72  73  74  75  76  77  78  79  80  81  82  83  84  85  86  87  88  89  90  91  92  93  94  95  96  97  98  99  100  101  102  103  104  105  106  107  108  109  110  111  112  113  114  115  116    All Pages