The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering, and the Development of Medical Testimony

The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering, and the Development of Medical Testimony

The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering, and the Development of Medical Testimony

The Abraham Man: Madness, Malingering, and the Development of Medical Testimony

Synopsis

Some of the most celebrated civil and criminal trials in American history were argued under the shadow of the Abraham Man. Readers will delight in the detailed stories of long forgotten legal cases which bring the antics of the Abraham Man to life. Through the process, readers will follow the careers of notable Civil War surgeons whose post-war professional development shaped the future of modern mental health care. In addition, the book describes the promise of the asylum movement, prominent practitioners of the era, the politics, and eventual decline of institutional mental health care. Both readers and libraries will find The Abraham Man a refreshing, authoritative text replete with primary source documentation. The engaging narrative deftly weaves the history of science in the 19th century with evolving trends in legal practice. Throughout this period, the budding relationship between doctors and lawyers fashioned the foundation of modern medical legal practice. At every step along the path the Abraham Man sowed confusion and controversy, paradoxically contributing to more rigorous medical practice. The book will clearly tap into the public's modern fascination with forensic medicine. Professional readers, such as lawyers, doctors, and psychologists, will find The Abraham Man a valuable historical reference which still rings true after 150 years. Civil War aficionados will discover a fresh perspective and 'the rest of the story' about some famous soldiers. Medical history buffs will be enlightened by the devices and stratagems doctors employed to uncover malingering, in many cases the forerunners of modern diagnostic technologies.

Excerpt

The Abraham Man vanished about one hundred years ago. Before that time, the Abraham Man was a well-recognized term describing ne’erdo-wells plying a special sort of fraud. These practitioners were skilled actors in all manner of deceptions, simulating mental and medical maladies in exchange for various benefits. Mental illness and seizures were two mysterious conditions that evoked mixtures of pity and fear, both exploited by the Abraham Man. Even though the Abraham Man is no longer a commonly used term, his multi-century presence left an historical presence behind. By tiptoeing through time, a modern history sleuth can detect the faint clues of the Abraham Man from the earliest use of the term in the fifteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century.

Malingering propelled the growth and development of forensic psychiatry. By constantly challenging the skills of the physician, the malingerer paradoxically increased the sophistication of medical inquiry. the evolution of efforts to unmask the malingerer developed slowly alongside with scientific advances in medicine, against the back drop of changing nineteenth century mores, and through some of America’s most famous trials.

In the nineteenth century, a surge in litigation forged ties between medicine and the law, beginning with contested wills and then enveloping all aspects of civil and criminal law. the Civil War brought the practice of soldier shamming to the front and center. Unprecedented numbers of soldiers did their best to duck and dodge the hardships of . . .

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