The Abuse of Man: An Illustrated History of Dubious Medical Experimentation

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 13 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1175
  1. Pearl Hettiaratchy, retired consultant in psychiatry (
  1. Winchester, Hampshire

    That a society should be judged by the degree of protection it offers its most vulnerable members is a truism scarcely worth repeating. Despite government efforts, special inquiries, a Royal Commission, and rafts of good intentions, the problem of long term care for elderly people remains. Elderly people deserve more: any of us may have to face personally the problems we collectively fail to solve. Frail elderly people could be excused for imagining that our society offers them little beyond goodwill, sympathy, and the hope that they will stay out of sight.

    Nearly 10 years ago several elderly patients were discharged from Park Prewett Hospital in Basingstoke to a private nursing home, as part of a phased running down in the pursuit of “care in the community,” brought forward hastily because the home was expanding.

    Confusion surrounded the decision to move the patients

    Three weeks later three of them were dead. One was 95 years old, …

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