‘Hysteria and malingering’ is the third of the late Dr John Ellard’s essays reproduced from the book Some Rules for Killing People.* Dr Ellard, revered former Editor of Modern Medicine of Australia and Medicine Today and a distinguished psychiatrist, wrote many essays in the 1970s and 1980s on society’s most controversial and vexing issues. These were published in various journals including Modern Medicine of Australia, and a selection were chosen by Professor Gordon Parker, then Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, for publication in 1989 as the book Some Rules for Killing People.* The essay ‘Hysteria and malingering’ originally appeared in a 1980 issue of Modern Medicine of Australia.
* Ellard J. Some rules for killing people. Parker G (ed). Sydney: Angus and Robertson Publishers; 1989.
One of the central problems in psychiatry is to understand why people do what they do. A mystery is encountered when the motivation is obvious enough, but the person concerned cannot, or will not, acknowledge it. Any useful discussion of this problem will involve such questions as whether or not there is a mind; if so, what its parts and functions may be; is voluntarism a tenable hypothesis; and what is a proper analysis of lying. This article considers some of the notions advanced over the last few thousand years, how some of them have had quite terrible consequences, and what the author finds useful.
Picture credit: © Barry Olive, 2017