Personal Views

Fatal episodes in medical history

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7172.1599d (Published 05 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1599
  1. Brian Boettcher, consultant psychiatrist
  1. Sydney, Australia

    When I read about the deaths of children as a result of paediatric cardiac surgery in Bristol I was reminded of the deaths of patients from so called “deep sleep” in the Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney. Deep sleep was toxic coma for two to eight weeks in patients with intractable psychiatric conditions; about 40 deaths were associated with the treatment. The 1990 Royal Commission into Deep Sleep credited me with being the person who stopped the treatment.

    It is simply a respect for truth and human life and being unwilling to tolerate injustice

    Both events involved several powerful medical men who were beyond reproach and prominent in the medical world. Not even the increasing number of deaths worried them or their colleagues, who made various rationalisations to explain the “unfortunate” luck of these …

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