Robert Logie first visited Montreal psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron in 1956 to get help for the arthritis that afflicted his leg. Cameron diagnosed the problem as psychosomatic, and Logie, then 18, unwittingly became the youngest victim of what was later revealed to be the doctor’s secret brainwashing experiments. “He put me to sleep for 23 days while a brainwashing tape was being played,” recalls the 50-year-old Logie, who is now a Vancouver resident. “I can only remember four words on that tape: ‘You killed your mother.’ ” More than 30 years later, says Logie, he suffers from recurring depressions. Logie’s psychic agony remains unrelieved, but he and other victims of Cameron’s experiments won an important moral victory last week. After refusing for years to compensate Cameron’s patients, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—which helped fund the psychiatrist’s work—agreed last week to pay Logie and eight other Canadians a total of $907,500. Said Logie: “I had hoped for more money, but this is something. Dr. Cameron ruined my life.”
Cameron, an otherwise distinguished doctor who is sometimes called “the father of Canadian psychiatry,” treated between 50 and 100 patients at McGill University’s Allan Memorial Institute between 1957 and 1961 for such ailments as depression and anxiety. They were unaware that Cameron—who died in 1967—had received about $73,000 from a CIA front organization called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. That happened at a time when the intelligence agency was looking for ways to counter suspected Soviet and Chinese breakthroughs in “brainwashing” and interrogation techniques.
Cameron apparently believed that he could break, or “depattern,” mental habits and personality traits. To test his theory, he administered the hallucinogenic drug LSD and highintensity electroshock therapy. He then exposed patients to recorded messages played repeatedly for days at a time, often during drug-induced sleep. Said James Turner, a lawyer for Cameron’s victims: “He was damaging the central nervous system,
reducing people to a zombie-like state.” Eight former patients and the widower of one other decided, in 1980, to sue the CIA because they were still suffering from the aftereffects of the treatment. A civil case, in
which lawyers were asking for a total of about $11 million in damages, was due to get under way in Washington last week when the CIA made its unexpected offer. Turner said that he was pleased with the settlement. “These people all bear the scars of Dr. Cameron,” he said. “They went for help and instead they were abused.” Now, instead of waiting possibly many more years for an uncertain court settlement, they are at least assured of some compensation for their pain.
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