altruistic hallucination

altruistic hallucination
   The term altruistic hallucination is indebted to the French noun altruisme, coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798—1857), which translates to unselfishness. The term hallucination altruiste was introduced in or shortly before 1891 by the French physician and mesmerist Charles Féré (1852—1907) to denote a hallucination depicting a human person to whom a sensation, a wish, or a feeling is conveyed or attributed. As Féré admits, "Examples can demonstrate it better than a lengthy description.
   1. An epileptic who, during the aftermath of his convulsive seizures, often displays a certain degree of paresis on the right side, sometimes displays a delirium at the same time, during which he says: 'Give him a cigarette, light it, the poor man does not have a right hand, stroke his hand, his fingers are tingling, etc.'
   2. A young man, having a typhoid fever, being awake, and apparently healthy, repeats in peace and quiet, 'Give him something to drink, he is very thirsty, he is not comfortable in his bed.'
   3. A lady, who was going to succumb under a chronic infection, said several hours before she died, without having displayed any other mental symptoms, 'I can not get up to urinate; but he can go in my place.' " The notion of the altruistic hallucination might well fit in with the characteristics of the *misidentification syndrome. As noted by the French psychiatrists Henri Hécaen (1912—1983) and Julian de Ajuria-guerra (1911—1993), "The ill and suffering individual transposes the endured ardour and pain to this double, for whom he feels compassion and pity." Conceptually and phenomenologically, and perhaps also pathophysiologically, Féré's notion of the altruistic hallucination is related to * somatoparaphrenia, a condition described in individuals suffering from a left-sided paralysis due to a unilateral (i.e. right-sided) or bilateral lesion of the parietal lobe. Paraphrasing the words of the Austrian-American neuropsychi-atrist Josef Gerstmann (1887—1969), both syndromes can be said to fall under the heading of "anosognosia which, in addition to the experience of absence, is associated with illusions or distortions concerning the perception of and confabulations or delusions referring to the affected limb or side".
   Féré, Ch. (1891). Note sur les hallucinations autoscopiques ou spéculaires et sur les hallucinations altruistes. Comptes Rendues Heb-domedaires des Séances et Mémoirs de la Société de la Biologie, 3, 451—453.
   Gerstmann, J. (1942). Problem of imperception of disease and of impaired body territories with organic lesions. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 48, 890—913.
   Hécaen, H., de Ajuriaguerra, J. (1952). Méconnaissances et hallucinations corporelles. Intégration et désintégration de la somatognosie. Paris: Masson et Cie., Éditeurs.

Dictionary of Hallucinations. . 2010.

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