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  4. Missed but still very much there: death and dying in an old learning disability hospital

Missed but still very much there: death and dying in an old learning disability hospital

Stuart Todd (Senior Lecturer, University of Glamorgan) and
David O'Driscoll (History Officer, Herts)

Autumn leaves on the ground in Leavesden Graveyard

The place of the institution in the history of learning disability provision and social control practices is understood by many people. Through careful study and the collection and preservation of evidence and narratives, it is not difficult to imagine the day to day workings of institutions. These were places where people were separated from others, often for most of their lives. However, there is much less understanding of the ways in which people with learning disabilities died in institutions and what then became of their bodies and indeed their presence in the lives of others. This paper will look at the way death was responded to in institution between 1918 and 1940. Data will be provided on age and cause of death and the length of time people had lived in the institution prior to death. In addition data will be presented on how dead people with learning disabilities were managed. For many, this would have meant burial within a special cemetery. Such places still exist and the paper will explore how such places might be considered as places of family remembrance. However, not everyone who died within a hospital was buried there and there remains more work to do in tracing the resting places of other people.

Sunlight filtering through trees with a slightly misty background

A view towards the entrance to Leavesden Graveyard, with weak sunlight filtering down through the trees

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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA

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