Along with solid advances in science, the late 1800s and early 1900s saw plenty of faddish cures for ailments. In 1899, the New York Times reported on a young man, Irwin Fuller Bush, considered hopelessly insane, who had been restored to health through an operation. “Today, through the treatment with lymph from glands of goats, Bush is at home and declared to be completely restored in mind.” Dr. Roberts, a physician in Greene City, Missouri, had discovered the miraculous properties of goat glands and treated young Bush. The glands were also said to “arrest senility.” Roberts was enthusiastic enough about his treatment to go to Europe and try to convince alienists there to adopt the treatment in their own insane asylums.
Bush had been committed to the Insane Asylum at Kankakee (Illinois). In that same asylum, that same year, Dr. J. B. Murphy planned to remove a tumor from the brain of another patient held there. This man, “the son of wealthy parents, has been confined in that institution for six years and has been regarded as incurable.” The tumor had shown up on an X-ray, and Murphy and his assistant were convinced their operation would be successful. “There is no doubt that this discovery [of tumors on the brain] will lead to the removal of the causes of insanity in many cases,” said Murphy.
The Kankakee asylum appears to have been especially proactive in searching out new treatments for insanity. Undoubtedly they had permission to perform these two treatments, but one wonders how many friendless patients they may have experimented on, as well.