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Mental Health

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation



Reading: "Sterilization of the Insane"


In 1918, Emily Murphy wrote a letter to a meeting of the Alberta Medical Association requesting the appointment of "psychopathic experts" to enable medical inspectors of schools to have "sub-normal" children properly classified. She believed this would enable judges of juvenile courts to compile reports on mental condition of delinquents and also allow magistrates to get correct diagnoses of persons charged with being insane and dangerous—as the physical exams by general physicians which were done at the time were ineffective.

Murphy felt "it is indeed a most serious matter to take away the liberty of any person, and commit him indefinitely to the provincial hospital without the closest possible investigation of his or her condition, its cause and possible duration."

In her letter, Murphy argued that the presence of "psychopathic experts" was merely humane and would provide proper diagnosis, leading to the best possible treatment. She expressed the scientific value of the endeavour and finished her correspondence by stating that the correct evaluation resulted in the appropriate remedy being applied, and the problem effectively solved, preventing the same problem from being dealt with multiple times.

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