Thomas A. Ban: The Ewen Cameron Story


Hector Warnes’ comment on Barry Blackwell’s comment Science and the Machiavelli Syndrome


        Ewen Cameron was unfairly treated and his name was tarnished by demeaning books written by the media at large. Every doctor, even the best, has made mistakes or has failed abysmally to help patients, particularly chronic ones. I know that in most cases I encountered (when I was on duty) Cameron was "trying his best" and adding several ingredients in the treatment that were commonly used at the time. Depatterning was used by Kalinowski, Sargent and many others, without using that name, and "psychic driving" was like subliminal cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. I know for sure that many patients improved but no doubt the treatments (even if LSD 25 was given which was widely used at the time not only for the treatment of alcoholics) and the motives were not intended as brain-washing or political re-education in a totalitarian ideology.

        Lethe, or oblivion, rather than inducing a mental state of emptiness and "tabula rasa" was not the basis of depatterning.

        In my experience every chronic depressive without cognitive dysfunction has a very lucid recall of every detail of their adverse events, faults, defeats and or loses even if during the course of life the patient was considered successful, a good parent and spouse, enjoyed social respect and had many friends. That is the reason why Freud considered depression as the result of a savage superego. So strange that bad memories come to haunt you even if you had a good life. Every patient treated by Cameron, as far as I know, had a psychiatric illness and had been referred for refractoriness to commonly used treatments at that time (unless they were paid volunteers, which were investigated, i.e., Hebb’s sensory isolation, to validate his findings). Psychedelics are returning to the therapeutic scene, just like the cannabinoids and Ketamine are being tried in various centers for treatment-resistant chronic depression. Janusz Rybakowski (2020), in his experience, clearly stated that he would only use a drug for short-term therapy because of its risks.

        I understand that a couple of dozen patients initiated the complaints against Cameron. The number kept on increasing when it was reported that the financial compensation awarded by the Canadian Government was to be $100,000.  There was no follow-up reporting of the number of patients who benefited and those who did not. I suspect that even if half benefited after a few years Cameron could have been vindicated. He was well respected and admired by most of his patients and I could see that his bed-manners were charismatic. I do not agree with Barry Blackwell that Cameron was only a biological psychiatrist. He wrote an excellent book on psychotherapy introducing neurophysiology to measure emotional upheavals not revealed in patient’s speech or gestures. Regarding the patient with a fatal outcome treated in Geneva, in my opinion the case was impregnated with politics but obviously the power of one doctor settled the controversy.

        The last point I want to make is that leucotomy (carried out even in the psychiatrist’s office), insulin shock and cardiazol-shock were stopped because of costs and inefficacy in many ill-chosen cases and higher risks and mortality. I have experienced good results in properly selected cases we continue to treat using ECT, which in Argentina at large has become an anathema. In the history of Medicine there have been hundreds if not thousands of victims of "therapeutic intentions" or research attempts with fatal results.



Rybakowski J. Lithium – the amazing drug in psychiatry. Poznan: Termedia. 2020.


January 7, 2021