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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 45 (2003) 12, 729 - 736


The psychiatric testament of Ellen West

The case of Ellen West by Ludwig Binswanger ranks as one of the classics in psychiatric history. A talented young lady, Ellen West, was suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Her psychiatrists declared her to be 'schizophrenic' and abandoned their attempts at treatment. She thereupon committed suicide. Recently it has become possible to access new source material which casts completely new light on the story. The new material gives us a much clearer picture of why psychotherapy failed and reveals that Ellen in fact received assistance in committing suicide. This essay contains some of my personal reflections on this intriguing case.

keywords Binswanger, case study, history, suicide