Thomas A. Ban: The Ewen Cameron Story

Rose-Aimée Automne T. Morin and Thomas A. Ban – e-mail exchange


Dear Ms. Wesley, 

My name is Rose-Aimée Morin, I am a Canadian journalist doing a documentary about psychiatry for Radio-Canada (our national public broadcaster) and I would like to do an interview with Dr. Thomas A Ban. 

I know he is part of the department's Emeritus Faculty, so I was wondering if you could maybe help me get in touch with him.

Please do not hesitate to call me if you need more information. 

Thank you very much and have a great day, 


PS - Sorry if there is any mistake in this email, I usually speak French! 

Rose-Aimée Automne T. Morin

Chroniqueuse, animatrice, autrice et autres titres chouettes

514 796-8956


From Pamela Wesley to Stephan Heckers January 31, 2020


Dr. Heckers,

Are you aware of an Emeritus Faculty member named Dr. Thomas A. Ban?



From Stephan  Hackers to Pamela Wesley with copy to Peter Martin January 31, 2020



Yes, I do. He is a very impressive man – still going strong.

Dr. Martin is very close to him and, I am sure, can connect this journalist with Dr. Ban.

Peter, may I ask you to forward this to Tom?



From Peter Martin to Stephan Heckers January 31, 2020


Absolutely, I will pass it on to Tom.



From Peter Martin to Thomas A. Ban January 31, 2020


Hi Tom, The journalist below [see above exchange so far] wanted to contact you via Stephan Heckers. Talk Sunday,



From Ban to Morin  January 31, 2020


Dear Ms. Morin,

I understand that you were trying to find me in at Vanderbilt in Nashville. I live in Toronto.

1177 Yonge St. #607 Toronto, ON M4T 2Y4 Canada

Telephone: 416 324 8761


Kind regards,

Tom Ban


From Morin To Ban February 1, 2020


Dear Dr. Ban,

I am working on a documentary for Radio-Canada on the topic of psychiatry and, more precisely, about the way the field has evolved since the MK-ULTRA experiments. My team and I will be in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday. Is there any chance we could meet for an interview? I believe your experience and knowledge would be of great use to us. We could also talk on the phone some other day, if you prefer so.

Thank you very much.

Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 2, 2020


Dear Ms. Morin,

I am sorry, it will not be possible next week but I would be happy to answer any question you may have by e-mail.

It might be of interest that our International Network For the History of Neuropsychopharmacology ( has a still ongoing exchange on The Ewen Cameron Story. Please find in the attachment an updated collating document of this project.

Kind regards,

Tom Ban

From Morin to Ban February 3, 2020


Dear Dr. Ban,

Thank you so much! Your participation really means a lot to us.

I would be happy to send you my questions by email, but do you think we could also talk on the phone? I believe it would be more interesting for our viewers to hear you than me (reading your words). If you accept, the best would be to call you when I'm with the film crew, so that we get the best sound we can. I will be with the team tomorrow night and on the 26th and 27th as well.

What do you think about it?

Once again, a warm thank you.


Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 4, 2020


Dear Ms. Morin,

Thank you for letting me know, but at this point in time I don't know.

I would be happy to help you The best staring point would be if I answer your questions by e-mail.

Kind regards,

Tom Ban


From Morin to Ban February 5, 2020


Good morning Dr. Ban,

I understand and it's perfectly fine with me!

Is it okay with you if I send you a few questions at the same time?

If so, I would start by these three:

- I found an article you co-signed with Dr. Ewen Cameron in 1961. If I'm not mistaken, you worked with him at the Allen Memorial while the MK-ULTRA experiments took place, correct?
- Were you personally involved in the depatterning experiments? What was the nature of your role at the time?

- Furthermore, what was your goal?


Thank you very much for your time,



From Ban to Morin February 5, 2020


Hello, Ms. Morin,

1. Yes, I worked with Ewen Cameron from 1959 to 1961-2.

2. Yes. From July 1959-to June 60 as his Research Fellow I was looking after his patient in the "sleep room." Subsequently, as a junior faculty (Demonstrator) in Cameron's Department, I was working part time (50%) on his team with the responsibility for measuring possible changes in conditional reflex variable detectable by an eye-lid closure procedure.

3. At the time I was Cameron's research fellow, my "goal" was to assist Cameron the best I could to treat his patients in the "sleep room." At the time I was a junior faculty, my "goal" (ambition) was to develop a conditional reflex test battery that would translate psychopathology into measurable conditional reflex variables.

Kind regards,


From Morin to Ban February 6, 2020

Good morning Dr. Ban,

Thank you very much for your answers!

Just so that I can clearly understand: what do you mean by "treat his patients in the sleep room"? (I know what a sleep room is, but I would like to know what were your own concrete tasks? If it is okay with you, of course.)

Also, when you look back on it today, how do you feel about the project? In your opinion, was it a success or a failure?

Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 6, 2020


Hi Ms. Morin,

I was only looking after the patents as Cameron was in full control of treatment to the extent that as far as I remember he administered the ECT himself.

I started my day by reading the nurses' reports and then followed up whatever had to be followed up with our patients.

It was a courageous attempt to treat the most severely ill but it should have been done better.

It also addressed an important theoretical question and from the little bit I saw I got the impression that even if all erased from the brain what was learnt the pathological pattern persisted.

The data were not analyzed; they disappeared.

Kind regards,



From Morin to Ban February 7, 2020

Hi Dr. Ban,
Thank you for the clarifications.

- What kind of follow up would need your patients?

- What should have been done differently, in your opinion?

- Also, what do you mean when you say the data were not analyzed? I thought the experiments         were considered ineffective, at the end of the program.

- Besides, some of the tools that were used at the Allen are still employed in psychiatry to this day: LSD and electroshocks, as an example. Do you feel you were pioneers?


Once again, thank for your time.

I wish you a very nice day,



From Ban to Morin February 8, 2020


Hi Ms. Morin,

1. It was a diagnostically heterogeneous population.

2. It was done almost half a century ago.

3. I understood that all information on Cameron's patients treated in the "sleep room" disappeared.

4. Certainly not.

Kind regards,


From Morin to Ban February 9, 2020

Good morning Dr. Ban,

I hope I did not offense you with my last question. I was just genuinely wondering if, in some ways, this experiment did have a positive impact on psychiatry's history. I feel some tools that were used at the time are now common our thought as promising. I was curious to have your take on the subject.

Also, about your second answer ("It was done almost a century ago."): many patients and patients family members are now planning to sue the federal government because they feel some people were "brainwashed" against their will. Do you feel consent was a different notion, at the time? In your experience, how has it changed since the MK-ULTRA period?

As a psychiatrist, do you think our collective perception of mental health issues have evolved? I feel we are more open to discuss them and therefore, to seek help and understanding. But I wonder if you felt a difference, through time, as a professional.

Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin to February 10


Dear Ms. Morin,

You certainly did not offend me,

Cameron's research did not have an impact on the development of psychiatry.

My opinion about the use of drugs which can induce psychopathology is probably best expressed in the paragraphs dedicated to LSD in my paper on Serendipity in drug discovery. (See attachment).

From the paragraphs dedicated to “ethics” in my Preface  to volume 9 of ACNP’s Oral History of Neuropsychopharmacology  (see attachment) you will be able to determine the status of “informed consent” in the years Cameron conducted his research at McGill.

Yes, "collective perception of health issues have evolved" in a positive direction. Yet, you might be interested in this overview in the attachment (Academic Psychiatry) that outlines progress in what we can do in terms of treatment for the mentally ill.

Kind regards,



From Morin to Ban  February 11, 2020


Dear Dr. Ban,
Thank you for your email!

I will read all the attachments tonight (and probably ask you some more questions tomorrow...).

In the meantime, as you worked with the patients in the Sleep room, there is a question I would like to ask you: many reports show that most of the patients were women with minor mental health issues, such as post-partum depression. Why them, specifically?


Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 12, 2020


Hello Ms. Morin,

I don't remember whether the "sleep room" was dominated by female patients, but even if it was  that was not necessarily the case on Cameron's service.

With regard to "postpartum depression,"  I don't remember a single  patient in the sleep room with postpartum depression. In my recollection, in the sleep room (where sleep therapy was combined with regressive ECT - depatterning) Cameron had severely sick obsessive-compulsive patients and many patients who would have qualified for one or another form of  systematic schizophrenia if properly diagnosed.

From the pieces I sent you the night before  you should get the necessary information that you will be able to be able to answer the questions you asked  before. You would get more cues for pertinent questions and a better understanding about The Cameron Story from the extract of Healy's interview of me in the mid 1990s  (the opening piece in  the collating document I sent you). The  full interview (in which the Cameron  related information is just a few pages) was published with the title "They Used To Call It Psychiatry" in volume One of his trilogy, The Psychopharmacologists.

Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin  February 13, 2020


Hello Ms. Morin,

Sorry if I overwhelmed you with information. It was not my intention. I thought it might help if I provide you with information that would answer your questions with little bit more details than I did.

Do you have any more questions?

Kind regards,



From Morin to Ban February 14, 2020


Good morning Dr. Ban,

Oh, I am not overwhelmed! I am very grateful for everything you sent me. It is so interesting! New questions arise with every page I read, that is why I am taking my time before asking you more questions. I want to make sure I read everything and gather all my thoughts, so that my questions are as precise as can be. Is that okay with you?

Sorry, I should have let you know I was not done reading everything you sent me!

(By the way, I don't know if I told you, but I usually speak French. So, I am sorry for the mistakes I make in English.)


Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 15, 2020


Dear Ms. Morin,

I am glad that you find the papers I sent you interesting. I also hope they answer some of the questions you already asked. 

I am looking forward to receiving your further questions.

Kind regards,



From Morin to Ban February 16, 2020


Good evening Dr. Ban,

I want to thank you, once again, for the very interesting papers.

Here are my new questions:

You wrote: “[Dr. Cameron] kept the cleanest and most precise records I had ever seen with all the information given on each patient to the smallest details.” Do you believe the theory according to which he left with some medical files? If so, why would a psychiatrist like him do that, at that time?
You also wrote: “I spent lots of time with Cameron’s patients, or at least with those assigned to me, and explained just as much about their treatment to them as I was able to comprehend myself and able to get across.” Was Dr Cameron clear in his intentions? To be perfectly transparent, I talked with two nurses who used to work for him and they both told me their questions remained unanswered...
You also wrote that you are now able to look back at that period of your life without any frustration. Was it hard to get to this point?

You did not know the CIA was one of the sources of Dr Cameron’s funding. If you would have known, would you have cared?

In our documentary, we try to understand the impact of the MK-ULTRA in the patient’s life. We also try to understand how things changed since then and how our collective perception of mental issues evolved. Therefore, I would like to know: in your opinion, could an experiment like that happen, in 2020?

Could a university research be used for political power, today?


Kind regards,



From Ban to Morin February 18, 2020


Hi, Ms. Morin,

I received your questions. Please see my replies.

1.  In my recollection the medical records of Cameron's patients disappeared from the medical records room. People were wondering how it happened and who  did it but I never heard of the speculation that Cameron himself left with those records.

To continue treatment in a patient, psychiatrists like to have the patient's prior medical record accessible.

The nurses participated in Cameron's "rounds" and his interaction on these rounds with  the nurses was more active and informative, in my judgment,  than the  interaction between nurses and  other service chiefs.

2. Cameron's intention was to develop an effective treatment for severely ill psychiatric patients unresponsive to conventional  approaches to  treatment.

Cameron  was  "transparent"  about his treatment.

3.  I was frustrated about trivial matters. Cameron was interested in  measuring any change if a  gadget for measuring a particular change was available. I was the one in his team who was supposed to measure those changes but I was dependent on  some help in using those gadgets. I was frustrated by the poor help I got. 

4. I did not know where my "salary" came  from. 

When I was interviewed by John Marks while he was writing on his book The Search for the Manchuria Candidate, I  entertained the possibility that Cameron might have not known it himself but apparently that was not the case.

Cameron was trying to develop effective treatments for patient’s refractory to conventional treatments. In my judgement Cameron did not care where the money came from for his research.  

I would have gone to work with him regardless. 

5. I don't know what MK-Ultra did to patients, but we will be posting a review of a book on INHN's website that gives some background to MK-Ultra and presents all the "bad" things it allegedly did.

In my judgement patients returned to their pre-treatment level of functioning.

6. Yes, I think that a proposal for what Cameron was doing in his research could probably be presented in a way that it would pass the different committees. .

7. I don't understand your question.  

I was pleased that you are trying to do a documentary on Cameron. About a quarter of a century ago my son was trying to get funding for doing one but did not succeed.

I think your project would be greatly helped if we could post on our INHN website our e-mail exchange in our project on the Cameron story. We should be able to get authentic information from people who knew Cameron and maybe even from a colleague who worked in the "sleep room."

If you agree I would be happy pass our e-mail exchange to our Central Office for copy edit and posting.


Kind regards,



From Morin to Ban February 19, 2020

Hi Dr. Ban,

I think it is a very good idea! Thank you very much for offering to share this with your colleagues. But just to be clear, we are not doing a documentary on Dr. Cameron. We are actually doing a documentary on a direct-action lawsuit regarding the MK-ULTRA experiments in Montréal. We are following the families suing the federal government to understand how they feel. We are also showing how psychiatry changed in the last decades and finally, we are trying to figure out why so many families are speaking about this for the very first time. Our hypothesis is that there are less stigmas around mental health and people now feel freer to talk about delicate issues like this one. But to understand how psychiatry experiments evolved over time, we need to understand how things were done at the Allen Memorial. So, any help is welcome!

About my last question, sorry if I was unclear. I swear I am much clearer in French! What I meant is that one of the main critics toward Dr. Cameron experiments is that it was funded by the CIA. So, we can imagine the CIA was interested in this specific research because it could eventually be a benefit for the American government. Could a government still have an influence on a research conducted in a university, today?

Who now funds the experimental researches conducted in psychiatry?

Thank you for your help,



From Ban to Morin February 20, 2020

Thank you, Ms. Morin,

My answer to your first question is: Yes, if  the research depends on governmental funding.

My answer to your second question is: the three primary sources of research funding in psychiatry today are: government, industry and private foundations. 

I will now process our e-mail exchange and Olaf Fjetland from our Central Office will be in contact

with you directly to get your approval of edited text for posting. 

Kind regards,



March 26, 2020