1890 Journal of the American Medical Association  
among inebriates are quite common, but seldom attract attention unless they come into legal notice. The practical question to be determined in a given case in court is the actual mental con¬ dition of the prisoner, who claims to have no recollection of the crime. This a class of evidence that must be determined by circumstantial and collateral facts, which require scientific expertness to gather and group. The court can decide from the general facts of the crime and the prisoner whether his
more » ... ner whether his claim of no memory may possibly be true, and order an expert examinaation to ascertain the facts. This should be done in all cases where the prisoner is without means, in the same way that a lunacy commission is ap¬ pointed to decide upon the insanity. The result of this expert study may show a large preponder¬ ance of evidence sustaining the claim of no memory, or the opposite. If the former, the measure of the responsibility must be modified, and the degree of punishment changed. While such cases are practically insane at the time, and incapable of realizing or controlling their acts, they should be kept under legal and medi¬ cal surveillance for a lifetime, if necessary. Such men are dangerous, and should be carefully watched and deprived of their liberty for a length of time depending on recovery and capacity to act rationally and normally. They are dan¬ gerous diseased men, and, like victims of con¬ tagious disease, must be housed and treated. The future of such cases depends on the re¬ moval of the causes which made them what they are. The possibility of permanent restoration is very promising in most cases. How far alcoholic trance exists in criminal cases is unknown, but the time has come when such a claim by crim¬ inals cannot be ignored, and must be the subject of serious inquiry. Such a claim cannot be treat¬ ed as a mere subterfuge to avoid punishment, but should receive the same attention that a claim of insanity or self-defense would. This is only an outline view of a very wide and most practical field of medico-legal research, largely unknown, which can be seen in every court room of the land. These cases appeal to us for help and recognition, and the highest dictates of humanity and justice demand of us an accurate study and comprehension of their nature and character. The following summary of the leading facts in this trance condition will be a standpoint for other and more minute investigations : ist. The trance state in inebriety is a distinct brain condition, that exists beyond all question or doubt. 2d. This brain state is one in which all memory and consciousness of acts or words are suspended, the person going about automatically, giving little or no evidence of his real condition. 3d. The higher brain centers controlling con¬ sciousness are suspended, as in the somnambu-listic or hypnotic state. The duration of this state may be from a few moments to several days, and the person at this time may appear conscious and act naturally, and along the line of his ordin¬ ary life. 4th. During this trance period crime against person or property may be committed without any motive or apparent plan, usually unforeseen and unexpected. When accurately studied such a crime will lack in the details and methods of execution, and also show want of consciousness of the nature and results of such acts. 5th. When this condition passes away the acts and conduct of the person show that he did not remember what he had done before. Hence his denial of all recollection of past events, and his changed manner confirm or deny his statements. 6th. When such cases come under judicial in¬ quiry the statement of the prisoner requires a scientific study before it can be accepted as a probable fact. It cannot be simulated, but is sus¬ ceptible of proof beyond the comprehension of the prisoner. 7th. In such a state crime and criminal im¬ pulses are the result of unknown and unforeseen influences, and the person in this condition is dangerous and an irresponsible madman. 8th. in 1864, demonstrated, by a series of experiments performed upon various animals, principali}' the rabbit, that ivory pegs driven into healthy living bone would, after a time, undergo greater or less absorption. He found, however, that in order to obtain this re¬ sult, it was necessary that the peg be driven tightly into a hole which was a trifle too small for it. Upon this observation, he concluded that firm pressure upon the surface of dead bone against the living was the essential factor in causing the absorption. His experiments were, of course, done long before the antiseptic era, and we may
doi:10.1001/jama.1890.02410140021002d fatcat:xfqcq2qg65gppjewvwmb3iarea