Medical Mistreatment of Veterans

This page depicts a few of the many instances and allegations of poor medical practice at Christie Street Hospital. While reading about the experiences of these veterans, it is important to remember that certain practice standards mentioned were common in the 1940's. This shows that while Christie Street was a horrific example of poor medical care, it was not isolated, but rather widespread throughout the veterans healthcare system and possibly the care of the general public. These examples also show how issues in healthcare were further worsened by the use of societal ideals to guide care for cases of "male hysteria," sexually transmitted diseases, and many other societally controversial issues. 

This Space October 9, 1943

One way that Judith Robinson could inform the public about the conditions of Christie Street Hospital was through her weekly newspaper, NEWS. She used real stories of patients in her columns to help readers understand the experience of being in Christie Street Hospital. This example highlights one of the significant concerns of Christie Street: the adjacent train tracks. Patients reported that the building would shake when the trains passed, and they could not get adequate rest.

This specific column also functioned to help the public understand the experiences of pain that the soldiers experienced. Judith Robinson’s choice of words, “Crazed with pain,” brings the audience into the veterans' reality of uncontrolled pain. The problem with uncontrolled pain is that it can have devastating effects on both physical and psychological well-being (6). This is compounded by the fact that many of these soldiers suffered from mental trauma as a result of the war. 

This Space August 12, 1944

Here is another example of when Judith Robinson used her newspaper NEWS to spread awareness about the conditions of Christie Street Hospital to the public. Through this column, she presents a realistic description of the dying process many soldiers were forced to endure while at Christie Street. Some of the medical malpractice issues presented in this column are the single-person room overcrowding, lack of privacy (no curtain or screen) and poor staffing that resulted in insufficient care. 

"To Phil"

This letter came into Judith’s possession during her days in the Women's Emergency Committee. It reveals the shocking allegation that the head of neurology at Christie Street Hospital was inappropriately diagnosing patients with major hysteria to remove their ability to access their pensions. 

Before there were protections for mental health patients, mental illness diagnosis was often associated with a loss of “financial capability” as the patients were considered at risk of neurosis and inability to manage finances. This neglect towards the patients is now known to be rooted in the anti-LGBTQ2S+ practices of medicine at this time. This is because hysteria was considered a "feminine condition," and men who experienced hysteria were too, therefore, too feminine (7).

While this changed between the World Wars due to changes in the "Pensions Act," the allegations say that this doctor had switched to purposefully putting patients in areas with patients with V.D. (Sexually transmitted diseases). Despite research showing a lack of non-sexual transmission, the public still feared transmission and stigma, making it uncommon to room patients without V.D with patients with V.D (8).

"Case History"

CONTENT WARNING** Discussion of war injuries. 

This is a graphic case of a soldier’s medical care in Canada, specifically related to Christie Street Hospital. At the time, Christie Street Hospital was considered the main orthopedic hospital for veterans in Eastern Canada. This meant that many severe bone breaks and injuries were sent there. This patient was initially brought to a different hospital that could not properly care for his injury, as evidenced by poor wound care practices and the inability to decide on treatment. Unfortunately, when a treatment decision was finally made, this soldier was forced to wait for medically necessary surgery for a necrotic (dead) bone. This means that the dead bone was left inside him for an unknown amount of time, increasing the pain level the soldier experienced and the risk of nerve damage, severe infection and muscle wasting (9). Since this bone fracture also included a wound, the risk of infection for the patient increased significantly as well (10).  

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