Alert 22 : Threatening to “Get Breggin!”
On Thanksgiving Day, Ian, who has been my research assistant for eighteen years, sent me a note giving thanks for my being alive:
Happy Thanksgiving! 😀 One thing to be thankful of is Hunter Brown and his henchmen never “Got Breggin” ! 🙂
Also thankful we’re still going strong as a team, for almost 20 years, not even distance got in our way.
Ian was inspired to write me about the failure to “Get Breggin!” when he found the story of a threat against my life in an old newspaper column. The threats took place in 1973 in a workshop by California psychosurgeon M. Hunter Brown at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, and would not be the last.
People have asked me thousands of times, “How do they get away with it?” The “they” is organized medicine and psychiatry, and the drug companies, and often includes the government and its agencies like the FDA and DEA. What they are “getting away with” includes everything from electroshock and lobotomy to the drugging of children and the elderly that ruins the lives of tens of millions of people at both ends of the age spectrum. Or, it could be the marketing of dozens of neurotoxins as “psychiatric medications,” along with the FDA’s unfounded claims that poisoning the human brain is somehow “safe and effective.”
Without knowledge of these attacks on me, and on others, it is impossible to grasp why so few professionals speak out, so that these fraudulent and harmful “treatments” are allowed to continue.
Except for the failed attack on my medical license for criticizing psychiatric drugs on Oprah Winfrey, I have not written little about how dangerous it has been taking on the medical, psychiatric, pharmaceutical and governmental establishment. The license attack took place in 1987, a few years and my wife Ginger and I were married; and with her help, we had a total victory. The State of Maryland’s licensure commission exonerated me and expurgated the attack from the records to make clear it was groundless and unworthy of memorializing with official records. They also thanked me for my contributions to mental health in Maryland.
I describe the license confrontation in Toxic Psychiatry, my groundbreaking book that was published after the license attack drew so much positive attention to me. The attack is further documented in The Conscience of Psychiatry: The Reform Work of Peter R. Breggin, MD.
On this Thanksgiving weekend, with gratitude to God for my being alive and as active as ever, I break my silence. I will use my Frequent Alerts now and again to expose attempts by the pharmaceutical industry, organized medicine and psychiatry, industry and the government to suppress the truth about psychiatry’s abusive and sometimes deadly practices.
My research assistant Ian’s reference to Hunter Brown and his “henchmen” trying to get me refers to remarks made to me in public by psychosurgeon M. Hunter Brown at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The events occurred in Hawaii in 1973. My appearance at the national psychiatric convention was a cause of considerable distress to the APA, to Brown and many others. The concern escalated when I held a press conference at the psychiatric conference to tell the media, including newspapers and TV, about the danger of psychosurgery and the role of German psychiatry as the cutting edge in bringing about the Holocaust in World War II. To make it even harder for the APA, my press conference received more media coverage in Hawaii than the APA meeting itself received.
Then I did the unthinkable—I showed up at a workshop given by the lobotomists and psychosurgeons. In attending the small meeting of about thirty professionals, I broke an unwritten code. At APA conventions, members are given free rein to advocate for electroshock, psychosurgery, eugenics or any other atrocity, and to hold their workshops with no questions from any colleagues who might disagree with them. Thus, family therapists, psychoanalysts and lobotomists have lived in harmony—simply by paying no attention to each other.
The lobotomy seminar deserves a little description because so many attacks on me emanated from it, and I will feature several in occasional upcoming “Get Breggin” blogs. The conference room had a long table at the front at which sat new and old-time psychosurgeons, their professional consorts in psychology and psychiatry, and one muted lobotomy patient who was placed on display. The audience of perhaps 30 participants consisted almost entirely of pro-lobotomists. They were a scary bunch.
Fortunately, no one saw me put my SONY tape recorder among the others at the head of the table, and later I would walk away from the conference with a complete record of all that occurred that eventually saved my career from a series of attacks that could have ended my reform work. That little SONY with its tissue-paper thin tape would truly save my professional career. This part of the story is about M. Hunter Brown, leaving more stories for future “Get Breggin!” blogs.
Near the end of the workshop, I stood up to make a straightforward, brief critique of psychosurgery on scientific grounds, and then I sat down. M. Hunter Brown was sitting upfront at the end of the long table and he then stood and moved around the edge, closer to where I was sitting in one of the front rows. Feigning deep concern for me, the psychosurgeon warned me that I was in danger of being killed by one of the inmates to whom he was offering psychosurgery at a California facility for the criminally insane.
These murderous inmates were serving life sentences. The prison had told them, according to Brown, that psychosurgery was their only hope for release. Now they had recently learned that my on-going antipsychosurgery campaign had stopped Brown from operating on them, dooming them to lifetimes on death row. According to Brown, he was worried about me because the prisoners had agreed that the first one to escape would “get Breggin!”
Was M. Hunter Brown lying? Exaggerating? Telling the truth? I could not be sure, but I knew with certainty that a Michigan state hospital inmate had already agreed to accept psychosurgery on the promise of release from an interminable incarceration. At the time of the American Psychiatric Association meeting in May 1973, I was already working on this Michigan case with attorney Gabe Kaimowitz. We where we were trying to prevent the state from performing psychosurgery with hot electrodes insert into the brain of the incarcerated inmate. Brown probably saw the writing on the wall: that he and his colleagues would be stopped from manipulating and coercing hopeless incarcerated inmates into “volunteering” for mutilating brain surgery. He was desperate to stop me before I stopped him.
In July 1973, a mere two months after the threat from Brown at the psychiatric meetings, the Michigan three-judge panel would render its final opinion, based in large part on my testimony. They would strongly condemn psychosurgery and the attempt to force it on an involuntary inmate with a combination of threats and a promise to go free.
The judges’ opinion stopped psychosurgery in the state hospitals of Michigan and ultimately in all state hospitals and federal facilities in the United States. Beyond that, the court set free the supposedly incorrigible lifetime inmate on the grounds he was being held illegally and was not a danger to others. The court decision dealt a crushing blow to psychosurgeons and medical centers around the world that were planning or carrying out experimental lobotomy programs.
Neurosurgeon Brown’s attack on me was frightening and I decided to discourage Brown and his cohorts by making it public. In 1973, Jack Anderson was the most influential syndicated columnist in the world, and he supported my reform work. He agreed to help protect me by publishing the brief description of the threats against me that my SONY tape recorder had so nicely captured. In addition, members of the House and Senate called the attorney general of California on my behalf.
Anderson, Jack. The Bismarck Tribune, June 11, 1973, page 4.
I never found out if Brown’s threat was real; but I did live to see legislation passed in California calling for informed consent and a second independent opinion before psychosurgery—forcing M. Hunter Brown, and other California neurosurgeons, to stop doing psychosurgery.
When my antipsychosurgery campaign wound down, my several years of enormous effort had stopped most psychosurgery in the Western World and driven the rest into hiding. I took time for me to recover from near career-ending political and legal assaults, but I had made up my mind to continue my reform work.
On this Thanksgiving weekend and holiday season, I want to express my gratitude to all my readers. Your appreciation of these Frequent Alerts is inspiring me to write about experiences I have remained mostly silent about over many decades and, more importantly, has continued to motivate my reform efforts.
Peter R. Breggin, MD