by Gordon Thomas
Scores of patients, mostly women, were subjected to brain-washing experiments at one of Britain’s most respected teaching hospitals.
The experiments were performed by Dr William Sargant, head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
They included keeping patients in a “Sleep Room” for up to 40 days under sedation. Others were subjected to massive doses of electro-convulsive therapy. Some received up to 200 ECT treatments. A variety of memory-altering drugs were used.
The experiments were funded by the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services.
The work had two aims. To try and replicate Chinese brain-washing techniques. To try and help the CIA create a real-life “Manchurian Candidate” – a programmed assassin. Hollywood made a film predicting the possibility.
The CIA programme was known as MK-ULTRA. The US government subsequently admitted college students, mental patients and prisoners were used in illegal experiments.
Sargant – who died in 1986 – was a key member of the programme in Britain. His task was to use behaviour modification techniques on his patients.
His book, “Battle For The Mind”, became a classic for doctors eager to work at the cutting-edge of behavioural control.
Until now, Sargant’s role has been a carefully guarded secret. Even colleagues at St Thomas’ did not know the real purpose of the bizarre “Sleep Room” in his unit.
Tonight (Sunday, August 4th) one of Sargant’s former patients – herself now a respected figure in medicine – will reveal on German television for the first time details of Sargant’s work and her experiences in the “Sleep Room”.
She is Bicester (Oxford) born, Dr Anne White, 59, who is a Clinical Professor of Medicine and an Examiner for the Medical Council of Canada. She is currently Assistant Dean at the Carribean School of Medicine.
She believes “scores of English patients were involved in illegal, unethical and dangerous experiments for which they almost certainly never gave their consent. Sargant was one of the dominant figures in psychiatry in his day, the 1970s. No one would dare to challenge him”, said Professor White.
From her home on the idyllic island of Saba, she spoke exclusively about the weeks she was “incarcerated in the “Sleep Room” and subjected to horrendous experimental treatments for which I signed no consent forms.”
“Patients were kept in a drug-induced sleep. This was part of what Sargant called “depatterning”. We were only briefly awoken to receive electroshocks.”
“Sargant would wheel into the “Sleep Room” a portable electroshock machine. The normal procedure would have been to deliver a single 110 volt shock. Sargant used shocks 20 to 40 times more intense, two or three times daily, with the power turned up to 150 volts,” said Professor White.
“Some patients received multiple electro shocks over a period of 65 days. We were all petrified by the “Sleep Room”. I was put to sleep for long periods and received all kinds of drugs. I was in no condition to question him. He was all-powerful,” she added.
Only later, when she had qualified to become a doctor, “did I realise I had been subjected to brain-washing. I discovered the drugs and techniques Sargant used on me, and many other patients, were designed as part of secret joint British and US governments’ experiments to ultimately create an assassin,” added Professor White.
She became a patient of Sargant’s when she was admitted to St Thomas in the 1970s suffering from clinical depression. The strain of being a brilliant young medical student had been the cause.
“My only hope of recovering and continuing to be a doctor seemed to be Dr Sargant. He was very domineering. Every patient had to do what he said. I trusted him. But I knew enough about medicine to realise he was doing things that no doctor should do – experimenting with his patients. By then it was too late. I was another victim in his hands,” Professor White said last week.
Professor White explained she finally found the inner strength to discharge herself from his “care”.
Using her own medical knowledge she began to heal herself. Driving her was a growing suspicion she was the victim of “something terrible”.
The suspicion hardened when the US government admitted in a series of Congressional hearings in the 1970s it had conducted experiments that were based on Nazi techniques of mind control.
In 1972, she and her family emigrated to Canada. She became a faculty member of McMaster’s University, which has one of the country’s prestigious medical schools. She began to research Sargant’s secret work.
Tonight (Sunday) the story of her discoveries, supported by documentary evidence, will be shown on the German TV Channel, ZDF.
“I have decided to go public because many of the doctors who worked with Sargant remain in high office today. I have evidence that some still conduct mind-control experiments with impunity. There are still institutions in Britain and elsewhere where what goes on behind closed doors remains just that,” said Professor White.
In the documentary, Sargant’s experimental work is linked to his role as a consultant psychiatrist to MI5 and MI6.
“It gave him ready access to secret bio-chemical research at Porton Down and at a secret military base near Maresfield in Sussex”, says documentary producer Stefan Albrecht.
“What was going on in those places was extensive drugging, electroshock, sensory deprivation. In going public Professor White is hoping others will come forward”, Albrecht added.
“My whole experience was a nightmare,” states Professor White, “I was used as an experimental tool to try and create the ultimate weapon – an assassin.”