This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Minimum Moral Rights: Alabama Mental Health Institutions And The Road To Federal Intervention




Belcher, Deborah

Type of Degree





This thesis explores the history of the abuse to the patients in Alabama’s Mental Health Hospitals from 1860 to 1970. It addresses the social norms that encouraged the abuse, the legal aspects that endorsed the abuse, the political forces that compound the abuse, and the medical and administrative policies of the superintendents and their staff that executed the abuse. It concludes by relating the events that led to the landmark federal ruling in the Wyatt v. Stickney case that ended the abuse and guaranteed the patients their minimum moral rights. The significance of the case lies in the fact that it ensured all mentally disabled citizens throughout the nation the right to adequate medical treatment.