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Chelmsford Royal Commission

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Chelmsford Royal Commission

The Chelmsford Royal Commission (1988–1990), chaired by Justice John Patrick Slattery, was established by the New South Wales state government to ostensibly investigate "Mental Health Services" in NSW. It came about only after prominent Sydney radio and TV shows pressured the newly elected Health Minister, Peter Collins, to make good his promises for a Royal Commission. Originally its prime focus was to have been psychosurgery at the NSW Neuropsychiatric Institute. Following media pressure it focused more on the "Deep sleep therapy" of Dr Harry Bailey, who was director from 1963 to 1979 of the state-funded Neuropsychiatric Institute and later the Chelmsford Private Hospital, a private psychiatric institution in Sydney.

Bailey had committed suicide in September 1985, in response to the ongoing media exposure of his practices and disquiet from among the ranks of other health professionals. In his suicide note, he said: "Let it be known that the Scientologists and the forces of madness have won".[1]

A Royal Commission into Mental Health Services would expose the current bureaucracy and medical profession to scrutiny. It might "...sheet home to doctors, public servants and the various medical boards the consequences of what at worst has been a cover-up, and at best has been an exercize in negligence and incompetence." [2]

The DST was Bailey's invention, a cocktail of barbiturates to put patients into a coma lasting up to 39 days, while also administering electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Bailey likened the treatment to switching off a television; his self-developed theory was that the brain, by shutting down for an extended period, would "unlearn" habits that led to depression, addiction and other psychiatric conditions. Bailey claimed to have learnt DST from psychiatrists in Britain and Europe, though it was later found that only a mild variant was used there, sedating traumatised ex-soldiers for a few hours at a time, not the median 14 days under which Bailey and his colleague Dr John Herron subjected their 1127 DST patients at Chelmsford between 1963 and 1979.[3]

A Victorian private psychiatric hospital which was associated with a quasi religious sect, Newhaven, "specialised in the use of LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms), Deep Sleep Therapy and ECT."[4]


References

  1. ^ The Melbourne Age, 22 April 1991.
  2. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 1988.
  3. ^ Malcolm Knox (April 13, 2013). "The big sleep". The Age. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. 
  4. ^ A twisted controller | Herald Sun
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