Previously published in Examiner on Mar 9, 2013
The 1950s was considered by some to be a dark period in modern psychiatry. According to the Baltimore Sun published today psychiatrist Dr. Gerald D. Klee was one of the men who was involved in what became the controversial testing of LSD on military personnel in the 1950s. The Washington Post reported yesterday that, “the retired psychiatrist who was an LSD expert and participated in experimentation on volunteer servicemen at several military installations in the 1950s, died March 3 at a medical center in Towson, Md. He was 86. He had complications from surgery.”
There were many kinds of unethical practices going on at the time; the most infamous of them all was the lobotomies which I covered in detail in other articles. I was appalled at the abuse that was going on all over the world, even at Montreal’s Douglas Hospital. My husband suffered from schizophrenia. If he was declared mentally ill back then, he probably would have had a lobotomy.
Wikipedia sums up these dark days of psychiatry in the 1950s very well. “The experiments include: the deliberate infection of people with deadly or debilitating diseases, exposure of people to biological and chemical weapons, human radiation experiments, injection of people with toxic and radioactive chemicals, surgical experiments, integration/torture experiments, tests involving mind-altering substances and a wide variety of others. Many of these tests were performed on children, the sick and mentally disabled individuals, often under the guise of “medical treatment”. In many of the studies, a large portion of the subjects were poor, racial minorities, or prisoners.”
I am afraid that in all cases the subjects willingly or otherwise, did not know what was truly happening.When I worked at Douglas Hospital, there was a patient there who had lived through a lobotomy. She said she never knew what they had done to her.
Dr. Gerald D. Klee was one of the key players in this time period. The Washington Post reports that, Dr. Klee made headlines in 1975 when he confirmed published reports that the University Of Maryland School of Medicine’s Psychiatric Institute had been involved in secret research between 1956 and 1959, when hundreds of Army soldiers were given lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. He said that the Army also experimented with other hallucinogens as part of a wide-ranging chemical weapons research program. Furthermore, A large proportion of the people who have gotten involved in research in this area have been harebrained and irresponsible – Timothy Leary being the most notorious example,” Dr. Klee was quoted as saying.
The government is still experimenting in secret; remember Viet Nam and Agent Orange? My friend’s husband died of complications just recently which were said to have been caused by the drugs he received in the army. He was one of the victims of Agent Orange.
The subjects were told it was important to National Security. The Baltimore Sun quotes Dr. Klee, “I was there and I didn’t like it, but thought I might be of help to the victims. The civilian team quickly learned about those who had experienced “bad trips.” Dr. Klee also explained to them that they could control their behavior. He said he did not know of any lasting ill effects on the soldiers but added that university researchers followed the cases only during their month stay at Edgewood. “What the Army did after that, I don’t know. I’ve given many hours thought to that. I wish I did know,” he said in the interview.
These soldiers were lucky some experiments in the 50s caused death; others made the victims numb like zombies. I fell mind-altering experimentation is unethical regardless of the reasoning behind them.
Treatment 4 addictions.com states, “LSD was used in psychiatry to enhance psychotherapy in the 1950s and 1960s because some psychiatrists believed LSD was especially useful at helping patients to “unblock” repressed subconscious material. On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was outlawed in the United States.”
Sometimes to be fair, psychiatry was trying to better humankind.Though I still feel they were misguided.