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Topic: Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron took charge of “Admitting” at the Brandon Mental Health
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Shirley Booth

8/1/2012 7:48:49 AM
Member since:
Feb 2007
Total posts:3225
Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron took charge of “Admitting” at the Brandon Mental Health

Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron took charge of “Admitting” at the Brandon Mental Health Facility on August 1st 1929.  
He was born in Bridge of Allen, Perthshire Scotland on the 24th December 1901, and his father was a Minister in the Presbyterian Church.  
While attending the University of Glasgow he was an excellent scholar and athlete, where in 1924 he received a Degree in Medicine, and in 1925 a Diploma in Psychological Medicine.  
He took a position as a Resident at the Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital, and in 1926 immigrated to the United States on a Research Scholarship in Psychiatry at the Phipps Clinic in Baltimore studying under the renowned Psychiatrist, Dr. Adolph Meyer.  
After two years he moved to Switzerland to work at the world famous Burgholzi Clinic in Zurich studying under Dr. Hans Meier, and while there he met the Dean of Manitoba‘s School of Medicine Dr. A.T. Mathers, who was also the Chief Psychiatrist for Manitoba.  
Dr. Mathers, persuaded Dr. Cameron to come to the Brandon Mental Hospital as the Head of the Hospital’s Admission’s Unit, which included organization of Mental Health services in the Westman region.  
This Unit was called the Receiving Hospital which had opened in 1925, it had the ability to offer patients a good Prognosis which was enhanced by the highly qualified medical staff employed there.  
On August 1st 1929 Dr. Cameron replaced Dr. Davidson and threw himself into his new position. The network of mental health clinics he established in Westman was a precursor to the model of health care established in thee province in the 1960’s.  
He was a prolific researcher who submitted papers on the Classification of Mental Diseases (1931), Quantative studies in Psychiatry (1932), Training in Psychiatry (1934) and his most interesting and somewhat controversial study on Epilepsy (1934).  
Dr. Cameron began this research on Epilepsy in 1930 and it involved the experimental treatment of Epilepsy in patients by using water deprivation, or better known as dehydration.  
Another treatment at the time was to treat General Paress due to Neurosyphilis and the procedure was to reputedly infect a patient with Malaria from eight to ten times causing increasing levels of fever causing temps of 104 to 105 degrees F. finally to stop the fevers an injection of quinine was administered.  
Two other treatments experimented with were Insulin and Metrazol Shock treatment. Shock therapy was used to cure Schizophrenia and Manic Depression. Metrazol was a Camphor like substance that was injected into the patient to cause an Epileptic Convulsion, but this caused such violent convulsions that the patient had to be X-Rayed to look for skeletal fractures,  
There was also Insulin shock therapy which again put patients into a comer which was ended by giving a sugar compound.  
Other treatments were Lobotomies where parts of the brain were severed, Isolation rooms, Straight Jackets, Caged beds, and Mechanical restraints.  
This arguably cruel treatment are some example’s of the torture developed and administered to helpless patients which over the years would finally lead to his disgrace and downfall.  
Official reports gave glowing examples of great advances with respect to the humane care of patients. In 1932 the “Airing courts” had the fences removed and treed hedges replaced them for the enjoyment of the patients.  
A second procedure suggested by Dr. Cameron was hailed as an advancement when certain Wards were unlocked during the day time. This program he called the “open door policy” and consisted of two Wards which housed the Parole and Convalescent patients in the Receiving Hospital, and later Wards located in the Colony Building.  
The patients who worked outside in the farm and garden also enjoyed considerable freedom, many of them even held positions of trust.  
On the other hand documents and interviews with Staff members give a different slant to the treatment of patients from the Reports from the Medical Superintendent.  
An interview with a retired Nursing Attendant and a Power House employee, both reported that patients were used to shovel rail cars full of coal by hand into the storage bins and then into the hoppers that fed the Boiler fires.  
They suggested that one patient had been used for this purpose without any remuneration except maybe on “Tobacco Day” each week when patients were issued a “Plug” of tobacco for their efforts.  
There was also in additional holiday dinner after Christmas for all patients who worked on the farm, grounds and other locations.  
Further allegations were made like Patients were exercised in the winter wearing only light clothing and were made to run to keep warm.  
Patients were harshly shaved causing much blood to be spilt, or they were even dry shaved as a form of punishment for not cooperating.  
Patients who misbehaved were given the “Wet Towel Treatment” where patients who misbehaved were clubbed with a wet towel until they cooperated, the towel left no marks on the skin.  
There is no way of knowing if these incidents were common or even true, but a more reliable source was contained in a “Preliminary Brief” which contained a description of faults and was not to be used as a scathing critique of the Administration, but as a number of suggested problems that could be remedied by the Staff who worked on the Wards.  
One complaint mentioned was patients were teased or cuffed to a bed to remedy Staff boredom in the afternoon, when patients were provoked enough he would react and then be beaten.  
Another complaint was with the bathing procedures carried out with patients. Often they were herded through the bathing area like cattle, with the water being changed after every few patients or simply allowed to flow over the edge of the Bath Tubs.  
Towels were never plentiful, often only five towel’s for twenty bathers, even worse the outside working patients, especially those who worked on the farm and piggery, were only allowed to bathe once per week.  
Dr. Cameron left the Brandon Mental Hospital in 1936 and went on to became world famous when he was invited to join a team of Psychiatrists who examined Rudolph Hess at the War Trials in Nuremburg.  
In the 1980’s he was involved with the American Central Intelligence Agency who funded his experiments with “Brain Washing.” According to Law Suits filed against him and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal where he worked he used the drug L.S.D. on unsuspecting patients.  
Today I do not think his methods would be acceptable, there are no known records of the people who died during his experiments, but he did the ground work for controlling Mental Health by medication which led to the closing of the BMHC.  
He has been placed in his own section of Medical History, and he started here in Brandon Manitoba.  
Note #1. In 1933 he married Jean Rankine, a competitive tennis player and Lecturer in Mathematics at Glasgow, and together they would have three sons and one daughter.  
Note #2. He died of a heart attack while hiking with his son on September 8th 1967.  
After a family service he was cremated, and only a Headstone to his memory stands in a Lake Placid cemetery, New York.  
Note #3. The Brandon Mental Hospital had its own railway Spur Line connected to the Canadian Pacific Railway Main Line on November 1st 1934 to haul coal to its above mentioned Boiler. Thereby ending years of moving coal by horse and cart, loading and unloading by hand labour, of course carried out by patients in all weather conditions since the opening of the Institution.  
This was the only Spur Line on the C.P.R. system which required two “Switchmen” to help the locomotive Engineer, one to spot the Gondola car containing the coal and the other to prevent patients from throwing themselves under the train.  
Source: Every Stone A Story II by Dale Brawn.  
History of the Brandon Mental Health Center by Kurtland Ingvald Refvik


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