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Canadians at Ground Zero
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Freedom Magazine, published by the Church of Scientology

Deaths From Drug Reactions

Heinz Lehmann
Lionized in the psychiatric community for introducing drugs into “treatment”, German-born psychiatrist Heinz Lehmann administered damaging “anti-psychotic” drugs such as chlorpromazine to patients and conducted hundreds of human experiments, some of which proved fatal. Lehnamm taught at McGill and was Allan Memorial Institute’s clinical director from 1958 to 1971. He was never brought to justice for his actions.

Not so lucky were three of Lehmann’s subjects. After being given large amounts of chlorpromazine, they died of “fecal impaction”, as the drug destroyed their body’s ability to have normal bowel movements. The Gazette article made no mention of the deaths.

As reported in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, one patient, a 51-year-old woman, “vomited feces, went into shock and died. Autopsy revealed acute colitis and peritonitis, secondary to a large tumor-like fecal mass in the rectum.”

Two others suffered abdominal cramps, went into shock and died. Five other patients developed severe obstruction of the intestines and acute bowel pain.

Bob Dobson-Smith, president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Canada, toured more than 70 major psychiatric facilities in Canada in 1972 and 1973 in an early phase of his organization’s long-standing campaign to expose and eradicate abuses in the field of mental health. During those tours, he met thousands of patients suffering from severe illnesses, including tardive dyskinesia, after being on chlorpromazine.

He recalls listening to a show during that time on CBC radio on which Lehmann and a psychiatric survivor were guests.

“This patient said that she had been on chlorpromazine and was now unable to walk,” said Dobson-Smith. “Instead of suggesting she decrease the dosage, Lehmann recommended it be doubled to produce a ‘therapeutic dosage.’”

Similarly, other documents show that when one of Lehmann’s patients failed to respond during one experiment with the drug—funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare—Lehmann increased the dose several times above what was recommended in the literature. Other patients began to develop jaundice and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease during the course of his experiments.

Helpless Obedience

Peter Breggin, psychiatrist, author and founder of the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology in Bethesda, Maryland, compared Lehmann’s experiments to those conducted by Nazi-era psychiatrists in Germany. He said chlorpromazine was never intended to treat mental illness, but rather to disable patients so they would not “cause trouble.”

“In many ways, these drugs can accomplish in a few doses what took years for the Nazis to do to put people in a state of helpless obedience,” said Breggin, who trained at Harvard and is widely consulted as an expert on psychiatric drugs. “Within one year, most patients in most mental hospitals were on these drugs because they were so effective at suppressing rebellion.”

Just so much can be blamed on the archaic methods and bad conditions prevailing in the field of mental health at the time Heinz Lehmann undertook his experiments.

Most of his experiments were conducted after passage of the Nuremberg Code in 1947, the most important document in the history of the ethics of medical research and the first of its kind to ensure the rights of research subjects. Its provisions include full consent—also meaning patients should have legal capacity to give consent—and prohibition or termination of experiments where reason exists to believe that death or disabling injury will occur.

The adverse effects of chlorpromazine were documented in psychiatric literature well before Lehmann began killing patients with the drug, said Breggin. These included a study published in July 1952 by French researchers Jean Delay and Pierre Deniker as well as studies by Rhone-Poulenc, the drug’s manufacturer.

Andrew Scull, a professor at the University of California at San Diego who has studied Lehmann’s work, said Lehmann’s studies violated every basic tenet of medical ethics, even for that period.

“This was being done right at the same time as the Nuremberg Trials,” he said of Lehmann’s early chlorpromazine experiments. “It’s hard to accept the protestations of ‘We didn’t know any better.’ The point is, they did.”

Scull said the “science” behind the experiments wasn’t science at all.

“The methodology he used was they gave a bunch of patients the drug and said, ‘We looked at them before and after and they were clearly better after the drug.’”

If you have an aggressive patient who, post-lobotomy, sits in an apathetic heap, “does that constitute improvement?” asks Scull.

Immortalized by Pharmaceutical Money

Lehmann became an international psychiatric icon after his 1953 chlorpromazine “breakthrough”. Claims that chlorpromazine “improved” treatment gave psychiatry legitimacy, said Scull, and it opened the door to a multibillion-dollar partnership between psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry.

The National Institute of Mental Health in Washington, D.C., offered to support Lehmann’s research and gave him a seat on its selection committee to award grants. As an indication of his stature, in 1963, while the U.S. was cutting back on research grants awarded outside the country, Lehmann received one for $100,000—a considerable sum of money by today’s standards, let alone at the time. Lehmann also became one of the longest-serving members on the U.S. government’s Advisory Committee on Psychopharmacology, which investigates and reports on all developments in drugs for use in mental health.

Money seemed to flow endlessly to Lehmann, despite the nature of his experiments—and also despite his questionable medical credentials.

Documents obtained from the Quebec government reveal that from the time of his arrival in Canada in 1937 until 1963, Heinz Lehmann was never licensed to practice medicine, but operated under a “temporary permit” granted to him as a professor at McGill University.


This was apparently credentials enough for the psychiatric community even though a check with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec reveals that no official or valid “temporary permits” to practice medicine have ever existed in Canada.

Silent Partners

In the two and a half decades since exposure of the infamous psychiatric “mind-control” experiments of the 1950s and 1960s, only Lehmann’s colleague Ewen Cameron would bear close scrutiny, due to his prominent role in the MK ULTRA program.

“The Canadian Psychiatric Association has put out some disinformation that has been pretty well ‘bought’ by the Canadian public,” said psychiatrist Colin Ross, author of Bluebird: Deliberate Creation of Multiple Personality by Psychiatrists, in an interview on radio station CKLN in Toronto. “That is that Ewen Cameron was just an isolated incident, it happened a long time ago back in the ‘50s... there were sort of different ethical standards back then.

“Well, that’s not true because that research completely violated the ethical standards of the time, but also it wasn’t an isolated incident.”

Cameron was not the only one receiving intelligence funding, at McGill and at other locations. Documents have revealed, for example, that Raymond Prince was funded at McGill through an MK ULTRA subproject; others received funding through Canada’s Defense Research Board.

Cameron’s MK ULTRA money ultimately came from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the U.S. Department of Defense; the funds were channeled by the CIA through a front group known as the Human Ecology Fund.

Lehmann’s work was financed largely by hundreds of thousands of dollars in overt grants from the same U.S. government departments. He also received money from Canada’s Defense Research Board.

Virtually every patient treated by Cameron under MK ULTRA was administered chlorpromazine, as revealed in declassified CIA records from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., lawyer James Turner, who represented the Canadian victims of Cameron’s experiments in their successful civil lawsuit against the CIA, finds it significant that chlorpromazine was not on the CIA’s list of drugs it was testing at that time. He said the omission raises the distinct possibility that Cameron had a silent partner in Lehmann.

Lehmann and Cameron were associates and, as Lehmann recounted in an article he wrote, after Cameron established the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in the late 1940s, he “gave me opportunities to do undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.”

Lehmann continued his affiliation with McGill for decades, moving up to clinical director and associate professor of psychiatry in 1958, and becoming chairman of the psychiatry department in 1971. In his twilight years, he took the position of assistant professor in 1979, and professor emeritus in 1981. Lehmann died in April 1999, immortalized in North American medical history.

Certainly enough evidence exists concerning Lehmann’s ties to Ewen Cameron and his inhumane actions toward patients to raise serious questions, said psychiatric survivor and activist, Don Weitz.

Weitz, founder of People Against Coercive Treatment (PACT), said Lehmann was no healer or human rights advocate.

“Lehmann was a drug pusher, shock promoter and torturer—just as psychiatrist Ewen Cameron was. We now know that Lehmann forcibly drugged hundreds of psychiatric patients with high-risk, experimental drugs such as chlorpromazine which he knew or ought to have known would cause serious harm including brain damage.”

Learning the Truth

Yet other questions remain unanswered about the nature and extent of human experimentation in Canada. Some relate to evidence that chlorpromazine—the drug Heinz Lehmann was credited with discovering in 1953 for use on mental patients—was being used on Quebec’s orphans in psychiatric facilities as early as 1947 (see following story).

Today, Dobson-Smith said, whether or not the work of Lehmann and others was conducted for secret intelligence purposes is not so much the point. “Why they did it makes no difference in the lives of the patients who suffered. The most important thing now is that remaining survivors and their families learn the truth and are recompensed. It is the only way Canada can close this chapter of her history with some sense of honor left intact.

“The psychiatrists and others knew what was going on,” he said. “Any ‘lone gunman’ theory doesn’t hold up.” Dobson-Smith points out that the psychiatric community at the time in Quebec was very small—records from the office of the Quebec Ombudsman show only 15 psychiatrists licensed to practice in 1950, making the scenario of any psychiatrist working in isolation a “virtual impossibility.”

“And what about the profession as a whole? To this day, psychiatrists condone and excuse the activities of these prominent members, and for the most part they have carried on in the same vein, drugging, shocking and cutting up patients, always claiming that the treatment is ‘better’ now, more ‘modern’. And always reporting that more and more people are mentally ill,” he said. “It points up that this is an ineffectual, uncaring and frequently destructive industry with a highly questionable moral compass.”

In a media interview in his late life in which he discussed his years of experiments, Lehmann was to say, “I didn’t ask the patients, I didn’t ask the relatives ... I certainly didn’t have to ask the government which I would have to do now.... I did what I thought was right.”

In doing what they thought was right, Lehmann, Cameron and others like them, once pillars of the Canadian psychiatric community, operated above the law and left a legacy of shattered lives.

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