Fast forward five years, another lovely day out yesterday, this time with my lovely niece Eilidh, in my wheelchair, to meet another lovely pal, Thomas, to meet for lunch and then on to the United Colours of Leith march where we met up with the always lovely Scott and I got to meet the lovely Julie for the first time. Using a wheelchair outside still pretty daunting, thanks Eilidh, and Tom when the kerbs got too high, for helping me.
Birbalsingh originally gained attention as the anonymous bloggerTo Miss With Love, in which she wrote about her experiences teaching at an inner-city secondary school. She then came to national prominence after she spoke at the 2010 Conservative Party conference in support of the party's education policies and criticised the state of the British education system. She was asked not to attend her school "for the rest of the week while senior teachers and governors discuss her position". Birbalsingh subsequently resigned after being "asked to comply with conditions that she did not feel able to comply with", according to a report by David Barrett of The Sunday Telegraph. A campaign on Facebook was created to have her reinstated.
I have spoken at length to one of the survivors of Kenneth O Milner’s barbaric abusive treatment of children We were able to identify many features of the abusive incidents that correspond with events that occurred under MKULTRA.
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT
COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING
AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL
SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.
“FILE ON 4”
Transmission: Tuesday 12th July 2016
Repeat: Sunday 17th July 2016
Producer: Ruth Evans
Reporter: Phil Kemp
Editor: Gail Champion
MUSIC (NILS FRAHM ‘THE SHOOTING’)
MARIANNE: He just dragged me up the stone steps and threw me in
this little room upstairs and locked me in. A train of girls went past the window and they
were going, ‘You’re having treatment tonight … treatment ... treatment.’
KEMP: Dozens of people who were child patients at a
psychiatric hospital have come forward to claim they were experimented on with a so-called
truth serum. Now in their fifties and sixties, they’re trying to piece together what happened
to them while under the hospital’s care and whether there’s any truth to the shocking
diagnoses they received after enduring controversial psychotherapy sessions.
SANDRA: He said, ‘Okay, I’ll tell you now what happened. Your
dad was sexually abusing you.’ And I was, I was just so upset, totally devastated. And of
course you believe what the doctor says, don’t you? He knows what he’s doing, he knows
what he’s talking about.
- 2 -
KEMP: But did he? Tonight we ask what really happened to
this group of vulnerable children at the hands of the medical superintendent in charge of the
hospital. What we’ve found raises questions about a dark chapter in the history of psychiatric
ACTUALITY IN CAR
BARBARA: This is where the big house is. This is the house where
he lived. That’s it. You used to drive past this and there used to be roads that went round the
KEMP: It’s 45 years since Barbara O’Hare was admitted to
Aston Hall near Derby - what was known at the time as a mental deficiency hospital treating
adults and children with a wide variety of disorders. The main hospital buildings have now
been demolished to make way for new homes, and as we turn up the long drive to where the
staff quarters used to be, this normally lively woman grows sombre.
BARBARA: This is the first time since I was 12 years of age I’ve
come this far in and I am feeling it. All of them buildings have been knocked down now.
There’s nothing left and I just wish it had been me who knocked it down.
KEMP: Why do you say that?
BARBARA: I can’t express or tell you how I feel to be on this filthy
land right now. The horrors that went on here, the suffering children, the fear. No one
KEMP: Barbara’s an outwardly confident woman, but she had
a troubled upbringing. Her mother left when she was just 11 months old. Her father was
often away with work, and in his absence she was looked after by foster parents. She would
run away - frequently, she says - to try to find her mother. Eventually she was sent to a local
- 3 -
KEMP cont: remand home, and it’s there she first met Dr Milner,
the medical superintendent in charge at Aston Hall.
BARBARA: He said, ‘Would you like to come into hospital?’ and
I’d seen an escape route. Ooh yeah - I thought I was going to get bunches of grapes and
comics and all kinds, furry stickers and all that, yeah. The next thing is, I was 11 years of age
and I believe - I’m not sure if I’m right on this - that I had unintentionally made myself a
KEMP: Of Aston Hall?
BARBARA: Of Aston Hall Hospital and a patient of Dr Milner.
KEMP: Kenneth Milner took up his post in 1947 after stints at
Broadmoor and Rampton - high security hospitals. But at Aston Hall Hospital, he was now
overseeing the treatment of troubled children, as well as adults who had had mental health
problems and learning difficulties since birth. It’s hard to imagine it now, but up until the
1970s, children with behavioural problems or who got into trouble with the law could
sometimes end up in psychiatric hospitals like this one.
BARBARA: I remember them driving me along these country lanes
where we’ve just been now. They drove me through these gates to this hospital, and they
drove down and it was like annexes, a bit like an army barracks just scattered left and
right. Eventually they pulled up in this car park and there was a sign there saying Laburnum
Ward, and I remember the woman saying, ‘Oh look, they’re all named after trees.’ So we
gets out and basically I was then made to sit in this corridor. The nurse had keys on her like a
prisoner officer and all the doors was locked. She took me to the door of this office,
Dr Milner was sitting there and he just put his head up and said to me, ‘No tea,’ - that meant
no tea tonight and treatment.
KEMP: Barbara may not have known what was coming, but
the other girls soon made her realise something disturbing was about to happen to her.
- 4 -
BARBARA: I was made to sit there while the girls had their tea and
then the nurse come and got me. She took me upstairs. She made me strip off and get in the
bath, then she made me put on this weird looking gown. It wasn’t a straightjacket, but it was
a very heavy canvas that couldn’t be bent and it tied at the back. And then she took me just a
couple of feet along to this first room, which was known as the side room. There was
no bedding, no pillow, nothing like that. She told me to lie down on the mattress, she puts
my right hand over my left hand like this and she bandages me hands together. I don’t
fight, I don’t think I had fight in me. And then she rubbed along the inside of my hand here
until the vein came up here and she put this needle in.
MUSIC (GONG ‘DAMAGED MAN’)
KEMP: While she was drugged up, Barbara was subjected to
what was described at the time as a form of therapy.
BARBARA: I went like a statue. I couldn’t move a bone, a muscle,
couldn’t do nothing. And then she left then and Milner came in and he brought with him
three cushions and he lay down on that next to me. And then I felt some kind of cotton or lint
going over my face, went unconscious, completely blacked out.
ACTUALITY IN OFFICE
KEMP: For years, Barbara was adamant she’d been drugged
without her consent, but she had no evidence. Years later, she told a doctor about it, but he
didn’t believe her. He said there was no record in her notes about any stay at a hospital near
Derby. But eventually she did manage to get hold of some medical notes from the time,
which had been previously left out of her file. I’ve got them in front of me and you can
clearly see that she was at Aston Hall in 1971, and I can see here in black and white that what
she remembers about the drug she was given appears to be confirmed. There’s a reference
here to sodium amytal and a dose of 120mg being given. Now we’ve spoken to other former
patients of Aston Hall Hospital who’ve shared their records with us too, where you can also
see this drug being administered. Now sodium amytal has been described as a truth serum,
which sounds quite science fiction, but there genuinely was a belief around the time that
- 5 -
KEMP cont: Dr Milner started out in practice that patients couldn’t
lie if they were asked questions while under its influence. And Barbara and the other patients
we’ve spoken to say they do remember Dr Milner asking them lots of questions during their
sessions with him, probing their backgrounds. Well we think we’ve found a clue as to what
he might have been doing from the report of a speech he gave in 1953. It’s got the archaic
title, ‘Psychotherapy with high-grade mental defectives.’
READER IN STUDIO: Then followed a life history of the patient with
particular attention to family relationships and friendships. One of the most difficult things to
elicit was a history of cruelty in childhood. It was of vital importance to elicit such histories,
however, for they often gave a clue to what was to come. If a patient gave a history of gross
cruelty by alcoholic parents, it was very likely to be coupled with sexual degradation at an
ACTUALITY ON STREET
KEMP: Hi, nice to meet you. Have you at least been able to
grab a coffee or something after your clinic?
POOLE: Er, I was just, yeah, I’ve just finished clinic ...
KEMP: To try to find out more about the origins of this socalled
therapy, I went to see Dr Norman Poole, a neuropsychiatrist at St George’s Hospital in
south west London.
POOLE: It sort of goes back to Freud really, and the idea that
there was one traumatic event and that this had been suppressed and converted, if you
like, into a physical symptom. So we knew that the trauma was there because of the physical
symptom, but the patient wasn’t aware of it so couldn’t tell you about the trauma or the event.
So, Freud’s idea was that through lots of talking and discussion, finally the event would
become into conscious awareness.
MUSIC (A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN ‘ALL FAREWELLS ARE
- 6 -
KEMP: Psychiatrists had focused on this during the First
World War as a possible treatment for cases of what became known as shellshock - or what
we might refer to today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers who’d been through
harrowing experiences sometimes repressed them so that the trauma instead manifested itself
as severe physical paralysis or depression. But using Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis to talk
to a soldier about their dreams in order to find out what was troubling them took too long. By
the time of the Second World War, the hunt was on for something that could speed up the
process, so the soldier could be returned to the frontline - something that could disinhibit the
patient and get them to open up - by chemical means if necessary.
POOLE: Whilst Freud sort of spoke about dreams as being the
royal road to unconsciousness, in a sense abreaction or narcoanalysis was the back alley, it
was a kind of quick way in there.
KEMP: I need to step in here and explain some terms.
Narcoanalysis takes Freud’s idea of psychoanalysis, the so-called talking cure of getting a
patient to relive an experience, but with the addition of a drug - in this case a barbiturate,
sodium amytal, that the psychiatrist would use to send the patient into a state of semiconsciousness
and make it easier for them to talk. Abreaction is the ultimate goal of this
narcoanalysis, where the patient recovers the traumatic memory and brings it out into the
open in an explosion of emotion.
MUSIC (GONG ‘YONI ON MARS’)
POOLE: And the idea was that once you’d found this traumatic
event and the patient was able to express this, then almost like a sort of psychic abscess, you
could prick it. The trauma, the grief, the emotions that were connected with that would come
out and then the symptoms would resolve.
EXTRACT FROM ARCHIVE (‘LET THERE BE LIGHT’ BY JOHN HUSTON,
COURTESY OF OLIVE FILMS)
- 7 -
PRESENTER: The day begins with an early morning ward inspection.
The medical officer in charge checks the condition of every man …
KEMP: There’s a brilliant documentary film we’ve found by
the Oscar winning director John Huston, released way back in 1946. It’s called ‘Let There
Be Light’ and it follows a number of American soldiers who are suffering from emotional
trauma and depression during the Second World War. It really helps you to understand the
thinking at the time.
DOCTOR: Move over a little so I can talk to you.
SOLDIER: Yes, sir.
DOCTOR: Now what is the trouble?
KEMP: What’s fascinating about it is that it shows one soldier
who can barely walk unassisted, getting this narcoanalysis therapy and being treated with the
drug sodium amytal.
DOCTOR: You’re going to feel a little bit woozy.
KEMP: I’m watching it now and you can see the effect of the
drug is almost instantaneous. The soldier goes sleepy and the psychiatrist gets him to start
moving his legs.
DOCTOR: Now you’re going to be able to walk, aren’t you?
SOLDIER: I don’t know.
DOCTOR: Well, you’re going to, aren’t you?
SOLDIER: Yes sir.
- 8 -
KEMP: And then, almost miraculously, the soldier
is seen walking across the room to a nurse - something that seemed impossible from the state
he was in when he first entered the room. Well, watching this, you can see why this
treatment might have been popular during the war. It looks revolutionary. And the report of
the speech Dr Milner gave in 1953 that we found includes detail that certainly sounds similar
READER IN STUDIO: Next came the stage of catharsis, when the patient gets
rid of all his past misdeeds and unhappiness. This was the most difficult stage of treatment
and the technique had to be varied to suit the patient. One rule was that, during the catharsis,
the therapist must avoid any condemnation of behaviour, however bad. The most frequent
and most dangerous mistakes were the acceptance of half-truths by the therapist and the
failure to get back to the beginning of the trouble.
MARIANNE: Ah, this actually is by Dr Milner, 5th August 1968,
written by the physician superintendent Kenneth O Milner and all his letters after his name.
KEMP: Back in Derbyshire, Marianne, another former patient,
showed me some of the medical notes that she’d been sent from her childhood. She asked us
not to identify her, so we’ve changed her name.
Do any of these notes that you’ve got shed any light on the treatment that you were given at
MARIANNE: Yes. It says somewhere about it being … oh, this is it.
‘She was admitted on the 12th March 1968 and after exploding emotional tension under
treatment, settled down quite well and appeared almost to welcome being in a controlled
setting where people took the trouble to correct her faults. I interviewed the mother who …’
KEMP: Marianne’s ‘faults’, as Dr Milner put it, are pretty
understandable when you know a bit about her background. When she was 14, she found out
she’d been adopted - a teacher blurted it out at school. She said the incident sent her off the
rails and she got into trouble with the police after being found with a knife she’d been
carrying for protection. She ended up being given two years’ probation and she was sent to
Aston Hall Hospital for therapy with Dr Milner.
- 9 -
MARIANNE: I got to Aston Hall and it was dinner time and I can
remember being shown through into the room, because all the girls were always together.
And I can remember looking at the girls and thinking, oh God. I was totally shocked, I must
admit it. They were all dressed really oddly, you know, like shrunken cardigans and jumpers
and things. There were a few girls who did have illnesses or something, like one girl was
very, very hairy, completely all over, I don’t know what causes that, I don’t know. What am
I doing here? What have they done to me?
KEMP: Marianne had her first session with Dr Milner on her
very first night there.
MARIANNE: He just dragged me up the stone steps and threw me in
this little room upstairs and locked me in. All there was in this room was a mattress on the
floor, a really thin, hard mattress. And I’m hammering and screaming and bellowing and I
just didn’t know why I was there, I was absolutely desperate, absolutely desperate. It really
was like being abducted and just thrown in a room and not knowing who’s done it and what’s
going to happen to you. And then a bit later on, I heard shuffling feet and there was a train of
girls went past the window, and some looked in through the little peephole and they’re going,
‘You’re having treatment tonight … treatment … treatment,’ and I didn’t know what it
MUSIC (ANDERS PAUL NISKA, KLAS JOHAN WAHL ‘ON THE ROAD IN BERGEN’)
MARIANNE: I was told to lay down on the mattress. He lay down
on some big cushions by the side of the mattress and he said, ‘The nurse will go, I’m going to
ask you some questions. You can say anything you want to and it doesn’t matter what you
say because the nurse won’t be in here.’ And then he just stuck a needle in my arm, and then
I just like went down, off down this long dark tunnel, came back up this long dark tunnel.
His voice was looming in and out, asking me questions, and then I came round eventually
with my head on his shoulder and my arms round his neck.
KEMP: Can you remember how it felt, being under sedation in
- 10 -
MARIANNE: When the needle first went in, I felt very, very, very
drunk and I was going, ‘I feel like I’ve had about a bottle of gin, I feel like I’ve had about two
bottles of gin.’ And I can remember going, ‘Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas, Doctor,’
and that was a bit out there.
KEMP: Have you ever had an experience like it?
MARIANNE: No, no! Never.
RUTTER: As far as I knew, nobody was using it with children at
KEMP: Michael Rutter was the UK’s first ever professor of
child psychiatry, who practised at the same time as Dr Milner in the 1960s. He’s still active
in the field and based at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London.
RUTTER: I mean, obviously I don’t know everything that goes on
everywhere, but no. If it had been at all widely used, I think one would have heard about
KEMP: Had you heard about its use at all at that time?
RUTTER: With adults I suppose I had, but it’s not something that
was much used, and therefore it didn’t sort of come to my attention very much.
KEMP: So if you cast your mind back, if you had heard about a
psychiatrist using this form of treatment on children at the time, what would you have made
RUTTER: I would have been surprised, and I think one would
want to know why. Was it based on a body of evidence or was it based on a coherent theory
as to why it might be a good thing? And in neither case I think was tthere that sort of
evidence with children. Pretty limited evidence with adults, but certainly with children, very
limited - if any.
- 11 -
KEMP: So if you had heard about it, clearly thinking about the
standards of the time, would you have done anything about it?
RUTTER: Yeah, I would’ve been concerned, even in those
days. You’re quite right to emphasise that we mustn’t impose today’s standards on an era a
long time ago, but nevertheless, abusive behaviour, that really wouldn’t be acceptable.
ACTUALITY IN OFFICE
KEMP: We understand around a hundred people – men and
women - have now come forward to claim they were abused at Aston Hall Hospital. They
allege they were given drugs without their consent and experimented on by Dr Milner,
without proper after-care and in a way that’s left them with long-term psychological damage.
A police inquiry has been launched and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Board, the body
that coordinates all the agencies working together on child welfare, told us it was working
closely with all its partners to ensure the allegations are thoroughly investigated and
appropriate support is in place for people who need it. Now Dr Milner died in 1975, so we
can’t put the claims of his former patients to him personally. We did contact his family to see
if they would speak to us, but they didn’t want to. They did, though, ask another former
patient to call us. I’ve just got off the phone with her and she told me that she’d also been
treated with sodium amytal by Dr Milner after seeking his help voluntarily in the 1950s. She
described him as wonderful. She said a nurse was always present during the treatment and
she said he made her life worth living. So we’ve heard conflicting reports from former
patients about Dr Milner’s conduct. What we need now is to find a former member of staff of
Aston Hall to ask them about the accounts we’ve heard from former patients.
BULL: Their description is, I think, fairly accurate of what it
KEMP: John Bull was a trainee nurse at Aston Hall Hospital
back in the 1960s. You might know him better as a pioneer of community-centred children’s
care in the 1970s and the man who later led the children’s theatre company, Chickenshed. He
told us as a student nurse, he’d received training on the treatment, but he wasn’t involved in
giving it. Ill health has affected his speaking voice.
- 12 -
BULL: The room that they were taken to was like a small
room with shutters on the windows and no bed, but a mattress and a strong gown, which we
were told was to prevent the children hurting themselves. It was a pretty bleak sort of
environment, let’s put it that way.
KEMP: And you remember seeing this room?
BULL: Yes, I’ve seen the room, yeah. From the outside when
you were walking past the ward you would hear sometimes kids crying.
KEMP: And they were undergoing this narcoanalysis or
KEMP: And what did you make of that?
BULL: It was fairly disturbing really, but then it was explained
that in terms of the training, the reason for it and that it was to go through that process in
order for the kids to be able to understand what had happened to them and therefore modify
KEMP: And it was Dr Milner that was giving the treatment?
BULL: He was the only person I know that gave the
treatment. It was wrong in as much as it wasn’t, I don’t believe it was a suitable treatment
and I don’t doubt that those people feel that they’ve been abused.
KEMP: So is what you’re saying that the very fact that they
were treated the way they were in a hospital like Aston Hall would be considered abuse now?
BULL: It would, yeah. It wouldn’t happen now.
- 13 -
KEMP: And it certainly wasn’t common practice at the time.
Experts we spoke to told us that if Dr Milner was trying out something new, they would have
expected to have seen him publish his findings in medical journals. But we checked with the
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and
couldn’t find anything he’d published about narcoanalysis or sodium amytal being used with
children. John Bull told us staff at the hospital knew about the treatment - but did anybody
else? We tried to get access to official hospital records from the time, but were told we
couldn’t see them because of the ongoing police investigation. We did find some historical
records about Aston Hall’s management committee. Couldn’t find anything in them about
narcoanalysis or the use of the drug, but they did give a sense of concerns about oversight at
the hospital and whether the committee was able to challenge clinical decision making. So
were these sessions a secret kept within the confines of Aston Hall? What would others have
thought about it if they’d known?
POOLE: It went from being extremely popular to being almost
entirely absent from the psychiatric armamentarium, if you like.
KEMP: I asked psychiatrist Dr Norman Poole, from
St George’s Hospital in London, why the form of therapy Dr Milner appeared to have been
practising had gone out of fashion after the war.
POOLE: I think that there’s a number of reasons. One is that
alternative treatments did start to become available, behavioural techniques, medications also
came online in the early and mid 1950s and they began to be used much more widely. And
I think it wasn’t exactly clear how it worked. Freud’s ideas were becoming less popular and
so the mechanism began to be doubted. I think also psychiatrists became uncomfortable
gradually with them being in sort of quite a dominant, authoritative position with a
suggestible sedated patient, quite often female, and I think people began to grow gradually
more uncomfortable with it.
KEMP: But not only was Dr Milner putting himself in exactly
that position - and as late as the 1970s - former patients we’ve spoken to told us he would
press them on uncomfortable subjects in their sessions with him. This is what Marianne
- 14 -
MARIANNE: He asked me if I’d been interfered with. ‘Who’s
interfered with you?’ he said, and I went, ‘Nobody,’ and he said, ‘Somebody’s interfered with
you,’ and I went, ‘No, they haven’t,’ and he went, ‘Yes, they have ...’
KEMP: And what did you think of those questions?
MARIANNE: Well, I’ve thought about it a lot over the years and I
thought, what did he mean? I thought, just what did he mean? Why did he think I’d been
interfered with? There was another girl there, but she was up in the treatment room for most
of the time I was there. He was really intensive with this little girl, she was 13. She said it to
me through the hole in the door, ‘I think you’re seeing Dr Milner today. Can you tell him
that my dad didn’t abuse,’ she said, ‘I’ve told him my dad’s abused me and he hasn’t,’ and I
told Dr Milner and he just laughed and said, ‘Oh, you little confidante now,’ or something.
KEMP: And what did you make of that, that she was telling
MARIANNE: For her to have said that about her dad, I think it really
hurt her, but I can understand it because he coerced you into thinking these things.
KEMP: Clearly, some of the children who went to Aston Hall
had had a difficult upbringing and we know that some had suffered sexual abuse before being
sent there. But we’ve spoken to several former patients who said they were pressed about
sexual abuse, despite being convinced there was none in their history at all. And this brings
us on to a completely new chapter in this story - one in which the very reliability of a
patient’s memory when undergoing therapy with sodium amytal comes into
question. Remember we heard about this so-called therapy going out of fashion after the
war? Well, one of the other reasons was that many psychiatrists who used it had started to
doubt its efficacy. Those doctors for whom it did appear to work tended to have strong
personalities and they used a lot of theatre around their treatment. One of the most famous
exponents of narcoanalysis even had a bright red light outside his door to signal when therapy
had begun. Sceptics began to suspect that the success of the process was more down to thepower of suggestion than the treatment itself.
LOFTUS: People called sodium amytal the truth serum.
KEMP: Professor Elizabeth Loftus is a leading expert in
memory from the University of California, Irvine.
LOFTUS: Sometimes, when you use sodium amytal along with
all the, you know, the rest of what goes with it - we’re going to give you this truth serum and
you’ll be able to produce memories and experiences - and sometimes these patients were told
people can’t lie under the influence of sodium amytal, which is absolutely not true. And so
you end up going through a process as a patient where you think of things, you think you’re
remembering things and you think because of the sodium amytal that what you’re saying
must be the truth.
KEMP: Professor Loftus knows about sodium amytal, because
its use in psychotherapy enjoyed something of a revival in the United States and elsewhere in
the late 80s and 90s, with sometimes devastating effects for patients and their families. We’ll
hear more from her in a moment, but this is a good time to introduce the final former patient
of Aston Hall Hospital that we’re going to hear from. Again, she didn’t want to be identified,
so we’ve called her Sandra and we’ve asked someone else to read her words.
MUSIC (ALICE SARA OTT & OLAFUR ARNALDS ‘EYES SHUT – NOCTURE IN C
SANDRA: You couldn’t do anything because of the injection, I
think. You couldn’t help but answer the questions and there was nothing you could do. You
couldn’t fight off.
KEMP: Sandra lost both her parents at a young age and lived
with her sister and brother in law. She was treated by Dr Milner at Aston Hall Hospital back
in 1964 after getting into trouble with the police for minor larceny or theft. And like the
other patients we’d spoken to, she says it wasn’t long before Dr Milner was asking her some
quite personal questions.
- 16 -
SANDRA: Well, he started off with me being 11 years old,
because that’s when I started going off, off the rails. And he asked me if I’d been naughty in
a sexual way and I said no. And he said, ‘Well, why did you go off the rails? What are you
doing now? You’re 11 years old - where are you?’ I said, ‘I’m at home in a new house.’ He
said, ‘What are you doing?’ Because you can remember it quite well, believe me. So then
anyway, it went further and further and he says, ‘Did your father touch you?’ Oh, and before
the treatment started, he says, ‘Whatever we talk about, you will be reliving it as though it’s
happening again.’ And I felt as if I were being touched where I shouldn’t be touched, and
he’s saying, ‘What’s he doing? What’s he doing?’ ‘He’s touching me, I don’t like it. I don’t
KEMP: In total, Sandra had nine or ten of these sessions with
Dr Milner over the course of the year she spent at Aston Hall, and they became increasingly
intense and traumatic. Finally, towards the end of her time there, the doctor told her what
she’d revealed to him.
SANDRA: Dr Milner fetched me in. He said, ‘Right, we can’t go
any further, but we’ve got to the bottom of it. You were a hard nut to crack!’ I’ll never
forget those words. And he said, ‘Okay, I’ll tell you now what happened. Your dad was
sexually abusing you.’ And I was, I was just so upset, totally devastated. And my
sister didn’t believe me. She said, ‘No way, he’s put words into your mouth. He’s put words
into your head, I don’t believe it.’ And of course, you believe what the doctor says, don’t
you? He knows what he’s doing, he knows what he’s talking about. We was at loggerheads
quite a bit, you know, it made a strain on the relationship.
KEMP: Sandra left Aston Hall a year after being admitted,
believing what Dr Milner had told her. But was she right to have done so? More recent
history suggests perhaps not. Time to bring back Professor Loftus and to fast forward to a
notorious case involving this treatment in which she acted as an expert witness in the
- 17 -
LOFTUS: Gary Ramona was an executive with one of the major
wineries. He had a beautiful family, lived in a gorgeous house in a wonderful part of the
world in California. And his world came crashing down when his daughter Holly went into
EXTRACT FROM NEWS ARCHIVE
NEWSREADER: A court in California has awarded damages of half a
million dollars against two psychotherapists who supported a teenage girl in her claim that
her father had sexually abused her.
RAMONA: I lost my job, career, I’ve been personally humiliated
and somebody has to put a stop to the quackery.
NEWSREADER: Mr Ramona’s daughter …..
LOFTUS: During the course of the psychotherapy, Holly
developed memories, and she believed and remembered that she’d been raped between the
ages of 5 and 16 and allegedly repressed her memory. And she was even given a dose of the
sodium amytal, which ended up just confirming for her that she was abused. So she sued her
father. And what really made this case so famous is the father, Gary, turned around and sued
KEMP: Does the Ramona case and others like it then raise
questions about the reliability of memories recalled by patients taking this drug?
LOFTUS: You know, I think it is not a truth serum. When it
comes to the recovery of pristine, accurate, allegedly repressed memories, it’s a danger.
KEMP: So we have to consider another possibility here about
Dr Milner. Was he just practising an outmoded form of psychotherapy that had been largely
abandoned after the Second World War? Or was there something else going on that became
a much bigger problem in psychotherapy later on? Might he have damaged his patients
- 18 -
KEMP cont: by making them believe traumatic things had happened
to them when that wasn’t in fact the case? Sandra now thinks this may have happened to her
with her lifelong belief that her father abused her.
SANDRA: My other sisters, I talked to them. They said, ‘Sandra,
we can’t ever remember a time when you was actually on your own with him.’ I’d go to my
dad and give him a kiss night-night before I went up to bed, but I can’t ever remember once
him touching me. I’ve tried so hard to try and visualise it, but I can only remember and
visualise it from the treatment, and for 51 years I have been accusing my father of maybe
doing something he did not do. And the worst part about it, I’ve got … if it didn’t happen,
I’ve got to live the rest of my life knowing that I’ve told people he’s done this and accused
him of doing it.
KEMP: Sandra is still not fully reconciled with her family and
she’s been left completely confused about what happened to her. She’s no longer sure her
father did abuse her. Instead she has a different and far more disturbing theory.
SANDRA: I believe it was Dr Milner doing the abuse while I was
KEMP: You think Dr Milner abused you?
SANDRA: Yes I do. Because I can only remember it from being
under the treatment, and yet everything else I can remember actually happening. But I cannot
KEMP: What impact has all this had on you?
SANDRA: Every so often I would get down in the dumps and get,
you know, really upset about it when I was on my own and cry. You always felt as if, you
know, oh, it didn’t matter what anybody did to you, you could be used as a dish cloth, it just
- 19 -
KEMP: We understand around a dozen patients are claiming
they were sexually abused by Dr Milner. The allegations are being investigated as part of the
ongoing police inquiry.
ACTUALITY AT ASTON HALL
KEMP: The hospital that once stood here isn’t the only
institution to be the subject of historical abuse allegations. An independent inquiry into child
sexual abuse led by a judge is already looking into whether public bodies and other nongovernment
institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children in England
and Wales. But the claims we’ve heard are troubling in a new and different way. While
many victims of child abuse are clear about what happened to them, the former patients
we’ve spoken to have to live with the fact that they may never know exactly whhat took place
here because of the drugs they were given at the time. And that still haunts them.
MARIANNE: I do want an apology, just to clear my own mind really.
I would like an admission of responsibility that it shouldn’t have happened and I want it to be
admitted what they did to me in that room.
I am autistic. Sometimes my own “normal” feels so natural to me that I forget the aspects of myself that make me different. I live my life in a world that has become familiar, but yet I really have no real place in it at all. The people that live in this world go about their lives and interact with each other in familiar and expected ways. I am not one of them. I can never be them. My wiring is not equipped to act or react the same as everyone else. What I am aware of is my heightened abilities through my high IQ and my savant artistic abilities and because of that I sometimes forget that in the huge “scale of every life” there are sometimes heavy deficits to balance out our assets. Since my discovery of my autism I have tried to be aware of the things that set my “normal” apart from other’s “normal.” Certain traits that feel natural to me are vastly different than what others experience such as my texture sensitivities and other sensory challenges. Today, I walked into the dentist’s office. I walked into that office just as any other person does to get a couple of fillings. I have been to the dentist before in my life so I thought as a 58 year old man that I was prepared for what would happen. I informed the dentist that with my autism I have a heightened sensitivity to pain and would need extra deadening. I leaned back placed the shielding glasses on my eyes and surrendered myself to the professionals. That is when “uncomfortable” led to “bad” and then it led to “panic”. The oral dam they tried to use was latex which is one of my sensory triggers and the pain of even their minor probing shot through my skull. I fought back fear and the feeling of suffocation as they tried to stretch the latex across my mouth and lower face. I kept telling myself as I had told myself so many times in so many routine situations throughout my life that I should relax and calm down since everyone else in the world is able to do somewhere this each and every day. No matter how I approached the moment and the event, I was beyond salvation as an autism panic “spin” was is full meltdown mode and I felt trapped and ready to bolt like a caged animal. Finally I was able to say stop to the situation and explain I could not go on. I walked out of the office numbed, scared, embarrassed, humiliated, and concerned for the future. I think there is an understanding within the autism community by those of us that live this life each day and those that are caregivers for some of us. We are different and those differences unit us with a unique understanding. I know I am one and the same with every child that cannot go to a barber because their “hair hurts,” and with every child that can’t eat a certain bread because it itches their throat, and with every child that can’t listen to their father’s sister speak because the high pitch of her voice sends shooting pains into their head. Is it understandable to most people?…no…but it is our truth and an important reality to us. Today I stood up and walked out of a moment that threatened to engulf me in panic, pain and fear. I chose to walk out, regroup, and evaluate how to proceed for next time so that my dental necessities could be accomplished. I listened to my body, my state of being, and my wiring and made those choices. Maybe to many people the situation would appear that I failed a simple task. I know I did the only thing I was able to do at that moment when I came to terms with the fact that I am not the same as the world around me and I will never be like everyone else as I don’t respond or react like others. What I need is for others to look at me for who I am: an autistic doing the very best I can in a world that does not provide an owner’s manual for those of us with different wiring
I would like to highly recommend Eystein for his literary skills, He has given me wonderful assistance in the past when writing my Bayesian History for Wiley and my self-published novels, He has profound knowledge about the Classics, and Celtic poetry and literature,
For a while now, I have been working surreptitiously as an editor and proofreader, largely for friends, friends of friends, and academic contacts (thank you very much to those involved for the opportunities). This has proved fruitful and rewarding for all concerned, so I am starting to proactively market myself. To this end, I hereby unveil my new website and quasi-business, 'Intentio Editing':www.intentio-editing.com
The rough-and-ready thumbnail is regrettable, but the website is better!
If you know anyone who might find my services useful, please do pass the link on. And if anyone has any feedback on the website, then that will be gratefully received. I am going to dish it out, so I need to learn to take it...