One of the most thorough accounts of
the punitive use of hydrotherapy comes
from an American. Pliny Earle, resident
physician at the Friends' Asylum in
Frankford, Pennsylvania, toured the
Bic�tre in 1840, when Fran�ois Leuret
was its director, and left behind a
description of the punitive use of the
douche as a moral agent, designed to
persuade patients to renounce their
fantastical ideas. Earle described two
cases, the first a delusional patient who
thought himself a nobleman, and the
second a patient who refused to work.
Pliny Earle (1809-1892)
F. B. Sanford, Memoirs of Pliny Earle, M.D.
Boston: Damrell & Upham, 1898.
Pliny Earle, A visit to thirteen asylums for the
insane in Europe.
Philadelphia: J. Dobson, 1841.
(To read Earle's account of the douche, click
on the title page image)
To such a course of treatment, Earle, a
Quaker, was resolutely opposed. Indeed, he
described it as 'destitute of utility,' and
declared it was evident that 'the douche
compelled the man to sacrifice truth on the
altar of fear.' Yet Earle did not reject
hydrotherapy entirely. Instead, he argued that
though water should
not be used coercively, it
could be useful and effective in some cases.
When Earle became superintendent of
Bloomingdale Asylum in 1844, he forbade the
use of the
douche as punishment, permitting
it only when the patient consented to or
requested the procedure.