Deadly Deep Sleep Treatment

Electroshock treatment featured prominently as part of a damaging and deadly psychiatric practice called “Deep Sleep Treatment” (DST). Used in Australia in the 1960s up to 1979, it was banned under the 1983 New South Wales Mental Health Act. So potentially harmful, criminal penalties, including jail, were implemented should DST be practiced. Other Australian states followed in banning the procedure.

Lives were ripped apart by this cruel psychiatric technique. People were knocked unconscious for up to three weeks with a lethal cocktail of barbiturates and sedatives. While in this drug-induced coma, they were shackled naked to their beds and subjected to painful electroshock treatments, sometimes twice daily. They awoke brain damaged, sick with pneumonia, nursing blood clots, and with an irreversibly altered personality. Some never woke; 48 people died.[1]

The perpetrator of these atrocities, psychiatrist Harry Bailey, was trained in Britain and Canada by psychiatrists who had worked on CIA and other intelligence agency mind control programs. [2]

Why is it featured here? Because, psychiatrists frequently resurrect or use versions of such treatments, despite the harm and prohibition. Practiced at Chelmsford private psychiatric in Sydney, NSW, DST was described as one of the darkest moments in Australian psychiatry. It represents everything that is wrong with psychiatry.

The Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy describes DST as prolonged or extended sleep treatment or continuous narcosis—a psychiatric treatment in which drugs are used to keep patients unconscious for a period of long time: days or weeks. Further, it has “left [a] majority of patients in a more deranged mental and physical state than pre-admission, with many suffering from long-term effects such as paralysis and brain damage.”[3]

As psychologist Philip Hickey, Ph.D. wrote in 2020:

  • “In the 1920s, the procedure was adapted by Jakob Klaesi, a Swiss psychiatrist, also using barbiturates marketed by the pharma company Roche. In Klaesi’s first publication on this matter, he acknowledged that three of the 26 patients had died during the study due to broncho-pneumonia or cardiac hemorrhages.” This is about 12%.
  • The “method achieved some popularity in the ’50s and ’60s and was used by William Sargant in the UK and Donald Cameron in Canada, both considered eminent psychiatrists: Dr. Sargant was president of the psychiatry section of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1956-57, and was a founding member of the World Psychiatric Association. Dr. Cameron was president of the American Psychiatric Association (1952-53), Canadian psychiatric Association (1958-59), American Psychopathological Association (1963), Society of Biological Psychiatry (1965), and World Psychiatric Association (1961-66). He has been criticized for administering electric shocks and drugs without consent and for his role in the development of psychological torture [brain-washing] techniques.”[4]
  • Continuous narcosis, a version of DST, was known to entail a significant risk of death or disability as early as 1922—forty years before Australia’s Dr. Harry Bailey’s “treatments” began. Remember Dr. Klaesi’s 12% fatality rate! [5]

In 1979 Bailey’s reign of terror was over. His victims united with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and Members of the NSW Parliament and media to expose DST—government investigations were launched. Bailey himself avoided his victims by committing suicide.

However, modified forms of deep sleep treatment continued to be used in other countries, including South Africa, and as a “treatment” elsewhere for drug abuse.

Consumers, their families and doctors should be informed of the lethal effects that DST and its offshoots and ensure, as consumers they never agree to it and as healthcare professionals, never allow it to happen again.

Read these articles for more information:





[4] Philip Hickey, Ph.D.  “Deep Sleep “Therapy” in Australia in the 1960s & ’70s: Could Something Like This Happen Today?,” 27 Aug. 2020,

[5] Ibid.

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