restricted access Dying to Get Out of the Asylum: Mortality and Madness in Four Mental Hospitals in Victorian Canada, c. 1841–1891

This article examines the status of lunatic cadavers during the second half of the nineteenth century. The first section summarizes cause of death data of over three thousand patients who were admitted to the four principal lunatic asylums in the province of Ontario (Canada). The results illuminate the alleged causes of death, revealing, among other factors, the impact of tuberculosis and general paralysis of the insane. The data also suggest that there was a steady increase in life chances of those entering the mental hospital over the five decades under study. The second section of the article investigates the tension between medical schools and asylum superintendents as educational requirements for nineteenth-century medical education necessitated more and more material for dissection, elevating the status of alienists as gatekeepers to cadavers. The article then concludes by reflecting on what implications these findings have for our understanding of the Victorian lunatic asylum.