Sunday, November 28, 2004

A Study in Research and Treatment Ethics

As someone commented on this story:

Free health care! Who doesn't get excited over that prospect? So, how does the state take care of the people in its system?

These mentally ill folks were shot full of LSD and forced to undergo electroshock for hours on end. For over ten years.

But hey, at least it was free!

All this in comment to this paper:

Ewen Cameron and The Allan Memorial Psychiatric Institute: A Study in Research and Treatment Ethics

Here are some highlights, just in case this paper dis-appears off the Internet:

Dr. Ewen Cameron was a very well known psychiatrist who worked for 21 years at the Allan Memorial Psychiatric Institute in Montreal, Quebec. He was highly esteemed among his colleagues and his peers; Gillmor (1987) suggests that Cameron was, when he died in 1967, "one of the most respected psychiatrists in the world" (p.1). At different times, he was head of the Quebec, Canadian, and American Psychiatric Associations, and he was a co-founder and the first president of the World Psychiatric Association (Gillmor, 1987).


Cameron [...] admits to using stimulant drugs and LSD - without the patients’ consent - to disorganize the patient [...] Cameron’s use of electroconvulsive therapy would likely be judged barbaric by the standards of today. [...]

The term "brainwashing" caught the eye of members of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). [...] The CIA wanted to study brainwashing. Rather than directly fund research, the CIA funded cover organizations who would not be scrutinized as the CIA would be (Collins, 1988). One of these cover organizations was the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (SIHE); this group funded Cameron’s research into psychic driving from 1957 to 1960 (Collins, 1988).

Fifteen years later, a group of nine former patients at the Allan Memorial brought suit against the CIA for funding research that led to harm of the patients at the Allan (Collins, 1988). Their lawyer, American civil rights lobbyist Joseph Rauh, wanted to settle out of court because of the advanced age and declining health of his clients (Collins, 1988). However, the CIA was willing to neither settle nor negotiate. Rauh subsequently filed a formal complaint, requesting one million dollars per plaintiff. He then tried to get the Canadian government to support the plaintiffs in their suit against the CIA, [but] to no avail. During the filing of depositions, "CIA and U.S. Justice Department lawyers . . . were . . . stopping testimony where they could on the grounds that it might be damaging to national security" (Collins, 1988, p. 220-21). The Canadian government still would not help, passively saying they "couldn’t release any American-originated documents without the approval of its correspondent" (Collins, 1988, p. 221). The CIA offered a "nuisance settlement" of $25,000 per plaintiff, which was summarily refused. Finally, in 1988, the case went to trial. The lawsuit, however, was fruitless; the CIA never paid any money to any of the plaintiffs, nor did they issue an apology.

The events at the Allan Memorial Psychiatric Institute in the 1950s and 1960s set psychology back to its dark ages

This in a paper that in fact is trying rehabilitate the reputation of this man. The author does not seem to appreciate the full horror and madness of the events in question

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Support better for treating depressed Seniors than drugs.

As reported online in the Senior Journal, depressed people 75 or older are just as likely to improve after an 8-week course with an inactive, placebo drug as with an antidepressant, new research indicates. The study shows that after a short course of the antidepressant medication citalopram (Celexa), around one-third of elderly people with depression went into remission -- the same improvement rate seen in people taking a placebo drug.

All of the participants in the study were treated to some kind of "active intervention". For instance, even placebo-takers received a free medical workup, an MRI, weekly visits with health professionals, and free rides to and from their appointments, among other amenities.

Researchers seem reluctant to assign the cause of the improvement to increased activity and extra attention, even though the drugs tested showed no significant effect or improvement.