Thomas A. Ban: The Ewen Cameron Story

Hector Warnes’ Preliminary comments


This is a marvelous short biographical account, including a brief look at his pioneering research which was later discarded.  I had a great admiration for Ewen Cameron and his closest followers, Cleghorn, Azima, Aufreiter, Sourkes, Hunter, Wittkower, Murphy and so on.

One cannot speak of Cameron without describing the golden days of the Allan Memorial Institute, the decade of the fifties and sixties; I loved the way you picture those happy days.

Many of the patients sent to him were from elsewhere in Canada, even the USA, because they were resistant to any form of treatment available at that time.

I saw Cameron like as a towering figure. I attended his lectures on psychotherapy and his daily supervision of newly admitted patients.

Professor Cameron presented to us  interviews of patients he conducted using a polygraph  that measured  the amplitude, frequency and gestures of the patient’s discourse. He wrote a book on the subject.

Cameron's method of depatterning with the use of ECT was not  studied scientifically in terms of numbers and outcomes (short and long term). Those who initiated a legal prosecution were irate for Cameron's acceptance of  FBI's paying for the experimental trials. For many of them the result not only did not result in significant improvement but they were worst off after the treatment on which they put their last hope.  I don’t really know how many were damaged or how many were improved. Often doctors for centuries have used methods of treatment that were later discarded for being ineffective or for being toxic to the patient.

Still in spite of ethical committees and preclinical trials with animals, control and double blind groups and paid human volunteers there have been drugs which reach the market and produce  severe adverse if not lethal side effects. For this brief introduction I have not studied the adverse effects of an overuse of ECT for therapeutic purpose.  

I wish you could have explained what depatterning means or what psychic driving means. The latter, as I understood it in those days, was inspired by the Chinese brain washing techniques but implemented for therapeutic purposes.


August 8, 2019