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The Defense of Insanity Revisited

Author: Shardul R Chouhan, Student, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual, Property Law, IIT Kharagpur, India

Abstract

The first known attempt to classify mental disorders was in ancient Egypt, toward the end of the fourth millennium BC, and this classification had to do mostly with the concept of religious sin, with the gods punishing the sinner by having an evil spirit take control over his soul. It was believed that the mental disorder was the result of the punishment of God and hence no human interference could result in any sought of improvement and cure and therefore, it was best to be left alone. In 1775, Franz Mesmer, a German physician, made the first attempt to explain mental disease using the medical terms of “animal magnetism.” Mesmer argued that an invisible liquid with strong magnetic properties is present in the universe, holds the stars in place, and affects human health. He advocated treatment with magnets to cure mental disease by balancing the patients’ personal magnetic properties. This was a crucial point in the development of psychiatry.

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