Thursday, 12 September 2013

Liverpool Care Pathway - The Secret Wards

Between the self and the other, the divide is but a conceptualised one; a dissociative perception only. The forgotten memories are real.


Mail Online recently reported on the psychiatric ward at the Royal Waterloo Hospital in London -

There are many horrors that Elizabeth Reed recalls from her time at London’s Royal Waterloo Hospital, but one in particular lingers in her mind. She describes a small, windowless room at the top of the red-brick Edwardian building, just lit by a night lamp on a nurse’s desk.
Six beds are jammed together. The deep breathing of women in a drug-induced sleep. The fetid stench of unwashed bodies.
‘It was like being buried alive,’ she says. ‘I was lying there in the dark, hour after hour, and couldn’t move. I wasn’t aware of my body,  just my head in this darkness. You could hear people moving around and other people breathing and moaning.’
While Elizabeth is one of only a handful of women prepared to speak out, her story is not unique. Up to 500 women, suffering from conditions such as postnatal depression and anorexia, passed through the Royal Waterloo’s infamous Ward 5 before it shut 40 years ago.
Heavily drugged and subjected to horrendous levels of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and even lobotomies, the unluckiest were taken to the 'Narcosis Room', where they were put to sleep for weeks at a time.
Almost all teenage girls and women in their early 20s, they were treated as little more than guinea pigs by controversial psychiatrist William Sargant as he conducted a bizarre experiment to ‘repattern’ their brains and cure them of depression.
If all this sounds like the stuff of science-fiction horror, it is no coincidence a new psychological thriller, The Sleep Room, by clinical psychologist-turned-novelist F. R. Tallis, draws heavily on Sargant’s scandalous treatments.
But behind the fiction, questions remain about why the women of Ward 5 were subjected to such cruelty at an NHS hospital. Two of them, now in their 60s, spoke about their experiences to Femail this week.
‘It’s so easy to dismiss us,’ says Elizabeth, a 63-year-old grandmother and former marketing director from London. ‘It was a long time ago and we were psychiatric patients. Many of  us were left with pieces of our memory missing.
‘We were not drooling maniacs, but if you’ve been put in a sleep room, then your memories are not going to be clear. I lost huge chunks of my past.’
Officially, the Department of Health says it no longer has records of Sargant’s work at the Royal Waterloo, affiliated to London’s St Thomas’s Hospital. However, Elizabeth has a copy of her referral letter from January 1973, stamped with the ominous words: ‘Admit to Ward 5.’ Notes reveal she was given a ‘course of narcosis’.
She had been diagnosed with ‘obsessional neurosis’ and, by her own admission, was very ill — depression compounded by a difficult childhood.
But many other women I have spoken to say they were suffering from milder forms of depression and anxiety,’ she says. ‘The treatment was completely out of proportion.’She was admitted to the Royal Waterloo in spring 1973 when she was 22 and engaged to be married. After arriving on the 22-bed Ward 5, she was sedated and underwent ECT — sometimes every other day.
‘But many other women I have spoken to say they were suffering from milder forms of depression and anxiety,’ she says. ‘The treatment was completely out of proportion.’
She was admitted to the Royal Waterloo in spring 1973 when she was 22 and engaged to be married. After arriving on the 22-bed Ward 5, she was sedated and underwent ECT — sometimes every other day.
‘I can remember the sound of the ECT machine being wheeled down the corridor and it being switched on and off in other rooms,’ she says.
‘It was so frightening. First of all, they injected you and you had an awful feeling of falling backwards into yourself. After ECT, you didn’t know who you were.’
Eventually, Elizabeth was moved into the Narcosis Room beside Ward 5 and put into a drug-induced sleep.
Women there were occasionally woken to be taken to the toilet or to be fed. ‘We were like zombies,’ says Elizabeth. ‘I couldn’t walk. I had to be lifted. Afterwards, they put you back to sleep again.
‘The worst time was when I started not to be asleep. I was awake, but couldn’t move or speak. It was torture, lying there for hours in the darkness.’
This description fits perfectly the experiences of those who have been prescribed Midazolam.

William Sargant was a founding member of St. Thomas' Department of Psychological Medicine. The Sleep Room was in use for a period of ten years, up until 1973, during which time four patients died.
At the heart of his treatment was his belief that the brain could be ‘repatterned’ to erase bad memories. 
His fame - due to TV and radio interviews and best-selling books - ensured a steady stream of patients. He was friends with authors Aldous Huxley and Robert Graves.
For what purpose, to what end, is not known, but Sargant subsequently destroyed all his records.

The Royal Waterloo was/is not the only hospital to possess such 'secret wards'.


The Sleep Laboratory was established at Atkinson Morley in London in 1972 and the psychiatric ward practised Deep Sleep Therapy or what a patient has referred to as 'sleep flooding'.

Deep sleep therapy (DST), also called prolonged sleep treatment or continuous narcosis, is a psychiatric treatment in which drugs are used to keep patients unconscious for a period of days or weeks, the idea being that, if the sleep is deep enough, it will flat line all the problematic thoughts that are disturbing the peace of the mind. ECT was used in conjunction with this therapy.

Because the patient is being held under the Mental Health Act, they are a virtual experimental tool. A cocktail of drugs may be used to bring symptoms under control. One patient was told, jovially, that he had been given "everything in the book". He was referred to in front of an audience of medical students as being 'zonked out'.

It is not unknown that a patient's vulnerable position is abused and they are taken advantage of. After all, who will believe a mental patient...?

Patients with OCD were operated on. Limbic leucotomies were performed. This was in the 1990's. The procedure was actually developed at Atkinson Morley in 1973, the same year the facility at Royal Waterloo closed down. Cryo-probes were used to make lesions in the brain tissue.

Curiously, it has been mentioned that there is a floor that only staff may access by lift.


The 'Secret Ward' at Bedford General Hospital, Milton Ward, is in the basement, hidden away.

Bedford General
In March 1998, Francesco’s mother was admitted to Gilford Nash Ward in the South Wing Site of Bedford General Hospital. Margherita’s leg was put in plaster because, they said, she had a twisted ankle. A dutiful son, Francesco visited his mother regularly, twice a day.

After a month, Margherita’s leg presented abnormally swollen and she was given pain killers. Francesco requested a doctor’s appointment. Instead, when he returned that evening, he was told that his mother had been moved to Milton Ward for the purpose of assessment. Milton Ward was in the basement of the hospital.

Francesco found his mother seated in a wheel chair by the entrance to the ward. They had not told her why she had been moved and, accordingly, she asked her son. He was unable to offer her any explanation because none had been given.

Weller Psychiatric wing
Next day, he found his mother in an inconsolable state, shouting in Italian that she wanted to go home. He found his mother at the bottom of a corridor in a large room, alone in the dark, seated in a reclining armchair with her feet raised above her head. Margherita was struggling to get up.

Francesco called out for assistance and, soon after, a nurse identified only as Malcolm arrived. Malcolm did not think it his duty to determine the lady’s distress and dismissed Francesco’s questions with the crass response that he did not speak Turkish. The nurse/carer obviously didn’t care a hoot. But Malcolm went to speak with the consultant, a psychiatrist.

Restrictions on Margherita then followed in place to deprive Margherita even of her customary siesta which Francesco had to negotiate for her to continue.

Francesco’s visits were interrupted by a bout of ill health and he was unable to attend a meeting with the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, Shanti Karunakaren, seized upon this opportunity to section Margherita.

Francesco worked hard to appeal this at a tribunal.

This curious case becomes curiouser and curiouser and we learn that Margherita was dosed with a benzo - Diazepam - and “was not nor is now insane”!

Francesco witnessed awful things going on in Milton Ward. He can vividly recall people – like Mr. Austin Bastow and Mr. Ron Brown – being reduced to a skeletal state.

So, what is going on? Francesco calls it the Bedfordshire Holocaust Scheme.
So, where is Margherita now? Francesco says his mother is being kept prisoner by Bedfordshire County Council.

Francesco says his mother is being kept prisoner by Bedfordshire County Council.

Milton Ward and ECT Suite
Weller Wing, the main psychiatric hospital serving the area, is also based on the main site, although it is run by a separate organisation, South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
  • Keats - 24 beds, acute adult psychiatry
  • Brontë - 18 beds, acute adult psychiatry
  • Chaucer - 15 beds, old-age psychiatry
  • Milton - 15 beds, old-age psychiatry - dementia and other organic illnesses
  • Sheridan Day Hospital - 15 places per day, for over 65s

Deep Sleep Therapy was adopted and promoted in the 1950s and 1960s, when William Sargant in the UK and Donald Cameron in Canada, some of whose research was funded by the CIA as part of the MK ULTRA Mind Control Research Programme, took up an interest in its possibilities.

Sargant wrote in his An Introduction to Physical Methods of Treatment in Psychiatry -
"Many patients unable to tolerate a long course of ECT, can do so when anxiety is relieved by narcosis. What is so valuable is that they generally have no memory about the actual length of the treatment or the numbers of ECT used. After 3 or 4 treatments they may ask for ECT to be discontinued because of an increasing dread of further treatments. Combining sleep with ECT avoids this. All sorts of treatment can be given while the patient is kept sleeping, including a variety of drugs and ECT. As a rule the patient does not know how long he has been asleep, or what treatment, even including ECT, he has been given."
This is so casual... This is an assault upon the person and a human rights abuse.


This is Sydney Morning Herald -

Fifty years after the first patients were sent to Sydney’s Chelmsford Private Hospital for deep sleep therapy, Malcolm Knox remembers those who died and suffered as a result of the controversial treatment.

DST was a cocktail of barbiturates to put patients into a coma lasting up to 39 days, while also administering electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Bailey likened the treatment to switching off a television; his self-developed theory was that the brain, by shutting down for an extended period, would "unlearn" habits that led to depression, addiction and other psychiatric conditions.
Craig was admitted to Chelmsford in April 1969. He stayed for four months, during which time his mother held a unique position as a witness in the sedation ward. "None of the relatives of the other patients in the sleep ward were allowed to visit," she recalls. "After they'd been down for two weeks, the nurses and hairdressers would do them up and make them look normal when the relatives could come in. I saw it all because I was the only one allowed to stay. I said if they didn't let me stay, I'd take Craig out myself."
She asked to take him home, "but the nurses said, 'Just a little longer, just a few days longer' ". Bailey refused to return her calls. She didn't know it, but Craig was intermittently receiving DST. During the day the nursing staff, she says, were "very kind and considerate and Craig was happy. But he said, 'A bad man comes at night.' At the time I didn't know what he meant. Later I realised it was Bailey."
Craig's records were among the many subsequently "lost". On August 19, 1969, a cold winter's day, Elaine McKay arrived at the ward to see a fan blasting Craig, who was unconscious and covered in bedsores. The nurses told her he had an elevated temperature. She sat with him, and then "I got the bus home and the phone rang. Russ [her husband] took it, listened, and hung up. I said, 'Who was that?' He said, 'Hang on a minute.' The next thing he's out the front door. Our next-door neighbour was with him. He said to me, 'Sit down, I've got something to tell you.'
I said, 'What?' He said, 'That was the hospital. Craig's dying.'
"I punched him. I said, 'He isn't. I left him a little while ago.' He said the hospital had called and said to make funeral arrangements, they had nowhere to keep him."
She repeatedly called Chelmsford that night, but the nurses told her Craig would be all right. "I said, 'You've just told my husband he's dying.' The nurse said, 'Calm down, you've got yourself into a bit of a mess.' They talked you down like you were the idiot.
"I kept calling that night. I drove them nuts, ringing them every half hour. We got a taxi over to the hospital at about seven o'clock in the morning. We knocked on the door. The matron [Elva Howard, Chelmsford's owner] said, 'We just lost him, my dear.'
"And that was it. I was in a mess, as you can imagine. They took me off and started popping pills into me to calm me down.
"We were a couple of dills. We believed everything they told us."
Craig McKay's death - caused, according to his death certificate, by bronchopneumonia - was not referred to the coroner.

This is Bad Guidelines - 
‘This conference:
1) Notes BMA motions in 2007 and 2012 that acknowledged the close links between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry and stated that these interactions can adversely influence prescribing.
2) Notes that the BMA is signatory to a document produced by the Ethical Standards in Health and Life Sciences Group called Guidance on collaboration between healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry (2012) alongside the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and various medical bodies.
3) Applauds the document’s aim of ‘ethics’ and ‘transparency’ but believes it is flawed for the following reasons
a) The document states that ‘medical representatives’ can be a ‘useful source of information for healthcare professionals’ and that ‘Industry has a valid and important role in the provision of medical education’.
b) The document does not acknowledge the best currently available evidence, a systematic review (Spurling et al, 2010), which shows that doctors who are exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies, such as pharmaceutical sales representative visits and attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored educational meetings, tend to prescribe more frequently, less appropriately and at higher cost than other doctors.
c) The document implies that all industry-sponsored trial data is publicly available, when this is untrue (Goldacre et al, 2013) and access to withheld information about clinical trials is the subject of a prominent on-going campaign, questions in Parliament, and at least one parliamentary select committee enquiry.
4) This conference believes
a) That the BMA should publically withdraw its support for the document
b) That the BMA should advocate for the other signatories to do the same
Spurling GK, Mansfield PR, Montgomery BD, Lexchin J, Doust J, et al. (2010) Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians’ Prescribing: A Systematic Review. PLoS Med 7(10): e1000352.
Goldacre B, Heneghan C, Godlee F, Chalmers I (2013). Missing trials briefing note. Available from (accessed 16 January 2013).

No comments:

Post a Comment