she story of Dolores and Ramona two women hospitalized against their will for reporting violence in their homes or to a person who, because of his condition The deaf man was “abandoned” for decades in a neuropsychiatric hospital are some of the stories that the Historical Archive of “Alejandro Korn” Hospital, in La Plata with a collection of more than 20,000 documents seeks to reconstruct the lives of “victims of asylums”, marked by conditions of imprisonment and “inhumane” treatments such as electroshock .
“I am writing these lines to draw attention to the word ‘restricted’ that they put on the cover of my medical records,” began a letter written by María Manuela, a hospital user, to her doctor in June 1945.
“I want a clear account with you and being in prison is one thing and being sick is another, in my opinion”emphasizes the woman, whose lines later point out: “And if I am accused of the disease I want to know the diagnosis and the certainty of the accuracy with which I was diagnosed.”
Seven decades later, María Manuela’s manuscript is part of a collection of more than 20,000 medical records, letters and other documents that the Historical Archive of the Alejandro Korn Hospital, in Melchor Romero, La Plata, is dedicated to recovering , classification and preservation.
Through this documentation, from 1884 (year of the hospital’s foundation) to 1980 seek to reconstruct the history of the institution, as well as the “forgotten and lost” lives of the thousands of people imprisoned there.
“This file has the particularity that, from a neuropsychiatric hospital, it was crossed with silence and the darkness in which mental health is often treated. For us it is very valuable to recover the memory of the people locked in the asylum,” he told Télam. Pilar Arguiano, social worker and project member.
“What we are looking for in the archive is to make it visible to guarantee that these crazy acts, which have a terrible effect on people, are not repeated,” he added. Camila Azzerboni, coordinator of the Human Rights Area of the institution.
In the dialogue with Télam, both emphasized the “historical, testimonial and symbolic value” of these documents, which before their recovery in 2017 were located in a warehouse in “poor storage and preservation conditions, among of ants and leaks.”
Treatments suggested for “cure”
In the old cupboards of that establishment there are still patient records according to the date of admission or the reason for leaving (discharge, death or escape), the diagnoses they made and the treatments proposed for them “get well.”
Among them, recorded the insulin application; THE “malarial therapy”, which they use to “treat grief”; THE lobotomies brain; THE cardizol injections and method that is the cause attacks and used to “change behavior”, and the electroshock.
Currently considered “violations of rights and even compatible with torture,” these acts reflect “a long history” of iharsh and even “experimental” interventions in the hospital, they maintain from the Archive.
He realized this a letter from 1947 that a group of prisoners wanted to send as a result of an assembly, to the former Government Minister where they expressed their complaints, how they lived and requested the intervention of the medical center.
“The man imprisoned here is subjected to moral destruction, through spiritual oppression (…) The hospital I was in was like a concentration camp. They don’t allow us to communicate outside and in some cases the letters were not even sent,” reads the letter signed by Carlos, which was found more than 70 years later.
In writing, the man described the “prison directives” that governed them – poor food, overcrowding and confinement– and warned that “Any act of rebellion will be punished by a stay in an infirmary bed and extremely painful injections.”.
“These letters, which never came out and therefore show a violated right, now sadly allow us to know the fact that people live in the hospital,” said Arguiano.
Pilar Arguiano (social worker and member of the project) and Camila Azzerboni (coordinator of the Human Rights Area of the institution) Photo: Eva Cabrera.
Involuntary hospitalization, without any diagnosis such as that of a young man “who entered at the age of 18, only because he was deaf and dumb and spent a large part of his life here”, or of women who were taken by their parents or husbands when they want to divorce or report violence, because “moral stupidity” is part of the stories found.
“Since his admission, he has been very calm, composed, clear. There are no disorders in his perceptions, no delusional ideas have been discovered, he recounts events from his life as a working, suffering woman, possibly a victim of mistreatment of her husband,” detailed her clinical history. Dolores, a 48-year-old woman admitted in October 1939.
“She says that, having been punished by her husband several times and threatened with death, she reported him to the police and was taken to this service without a medical examination,” details her report, which may that of Ramona, Magdalena. and dozens of other inmates. .
“In the documents we know cases where their ovaries were involuntarily removed, tubal ligation, abortion and many who gave birth here and were denied the possibility of having a mother,” said Marisol Salvador, a therapeutic accompaniment technician at the hospital. and a member of the archive, where Yamila Areco and Brenda Rosales also participated in the cleaning and conservation of documents.
2014: the Movement for Demanicomialization of Romero (MDR)
In 2014, the Movement for Demanicomialization in Romero (MDR), composed of hospital workersnext to Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) presented a legal need for the “inhumane conditions” of detention, which include the violation of the rights to liberty, the prohibition of torture, sexual and reproductive rights, and the absence of adequate treatment.
After the judicialization, the hospital began “a process of change” according to Law 26,657 on Mental Health, which includes the promotion of procedures that guarantee access to health and care that respects human rights, the closure of the hospitalization wards for long periods of time – in some of them an educational center is now operating – and the adaptation of the premises.
“In this process, a space of memory for the victims of the asylum and the entire town of Melchor Romero is necessary, so that the many violations of rights that have been in that hospital in its history will not be repeated,” concluded Arguiano.