22ND JUNE 1941:
80TH ANNIVERSARY OF OPERATION BARBOSSA
80 years ago today occurred the decisive event in World War 11, an event that still affects the life of millions of people. This was Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, known as Operation Barbarossa.
The largest land invasion in history, the figures are still difficult to assimilate. More men, tanks, guns and aircraft were deployed than in the rest of the war combined. The destruction was horrendous...
22 JUN 2021
11 min read (2056 words)
HITLER’S HALF-EMPTY SCROTUM:
THE LONG AWAITED TRIUMPH OF THE ONE-BALL THEORY
Adolf Hitler, the genocidal dictator who drove the world into a horrific war in which at least 12 million people were killed simply because of who they were, remains a source of continued fascination...
There is a considerable literature on his mental state, starting from the time he got into power in 1933. Explanations cover every category in the diagnostic manual. The consensus is that he was not mad, but after that agreement falls away rapidly.
25 AUG 2020
5 min read (815 words)
ALOIS MARIA OTT:
I WAS HITLER'S PSYCHOLOGIST
Adolf Hitler, the genocidal monster of the twentieth century, would not seem to be someone likely to seek psychological counseling, let alone respond. Since his death at the end of the war, there has been a vast outpouring of literature on the Nazi Fuhrer. Until recently, he was not known to have had psychological treatment — with one questionable exception...
26 JUN 2020
9 min read (1740 words)
Australians, not the world’s silent sufferers, like to dwell on their geographic uniqueness as the world’s smallest, oldest, flattest, hottest and driest continent. The result is the world’s highest degree of urbanisation with 90% of the population living in conurbations along the east coast strip. European settlement in 1788 was a disaster for the indigenous population who, after 65,000 years of highly successful and uninterrupted habitation, had no preparation for the arrival of settlers. The plagues that followed them occurred at regular intervals with devastating results, whole tribes being wiped out. Coastal aboriginals were riddled with syphilis which had been acquired in the usual way from sailors, whalers and explorers. It was later discovered that inland tribes had endemic non-venereal syphilis which arose in warm climates...
20 APR 2020
6 min read (1150 words)
DITA GOULD BOOK FORWARD
The Holocaust was the most traumatic event in human history. The gaunt survivors emerging in 1945 had been through inconceivable experiences. For the child survivors there was the additional loss of a normal childhood. To add to their burden was the hopeless prognosis they would all receive. This was not just contrary, but wrong. Studies show that survivors have passed down to the third generation something remarkably positive, a tribute to human nature: resilience...
20 APR 2020
1 min read (180 words)
LESSONS FROM SPANISH FLU
Forensic psychiatrist and historian Robert M. Kaplan is of the opinion the coronavirus pandemic will not last that much longer.
But that's where the good news ends.
The University of Wollongong expert, who is well known for his work studying the Spanish Flu and Encephalitis lethargica epidemics, fears another epidemic is just around the corner.
Professor Kaplan said if history was to be repeated, we could be dealing with another epidemic in a few years...
8 APR 2020
3 min read (424 words)
WRITING RONNIE LAING:
THE SHRINK WHO SHRUNK HIMSELF
“Some people are born mad, some achieve madness and some have it thrust upon them.”
Who now remembers R D “Ronnie” Laing? In that garlanded decade known as the Sixties (which went on well into the seventies), he was the most famous psychiatrist in the world; some regard him as the successor to Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.1 He was the leading figure in the British anti-psychiatry movement. His books sold thousands of copies, were reprinted and translated into many languages. He gave lectures around the world, was a regular guest on radio and television shows, read his poetry to audiences and even made a record. He is the only psychiatrist to have his portrait hung in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery...
1 MAR 2020
14 min read (2795 words)
WHY DR RADOVAN KARADZIC MATTERS
Dr Radovan Karadzic has learned his fate. Indicted before the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity and genocide in the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, offences rated as the worst in Europe since 1945, make him the first doctor charged since the Nuremberg Medical Trial...
3 JUL 2019
5 min read (845 words)
BODY FLUIDS ARE THE BEST
Blood, as well as other body substances, has been held since antiquity to have special properties (scatatherapeutic). Urine, semen and even faeces were believed to have healing properties for a range of complaints.
The healing power of fresh blood, preferably from the silky necks of delectable virgins, was the basis for the vampire legend. The ultimate manifestation of the scatatherapeutic legend was the belief that semen ejaculated when a man was hanged was especially powerful – but if it hit the ground a mandrake plant would grow...
3 JUL 2019
3 min read (446 words)
PERCHANCE TO DREAM
The sight of a pleasant senior couple in the waiting room was reassuring; less so was the black eye sported by the husband. Where, I wondered, could that have come from? Surely not from the spry septuagenarian at his side?
Which just goes to show how wrong first impressions can be. The black eye had indeed been administered by his wife in a desperate attempt to prevent him from strangling her in bed. This was not what one would expect from a perfect Darby and Joan couple...
6 MAR 2019
5 min read (833 words)
THE FORENSIC FUSILLADE:
UNLEASHES ITS ENDLESS LOSS
As the hapless year of 2018 tumbled towards its conclusion, my appointment list had several cases that made my heart sink.
These were claims for what the lawyers call "nervous shock". That is, close relatives of someone who has died in a motor accident, industrial accident, medical mishap or homicidal assault.
Such cases come up at intervals, but to have four over little more than a fortnight was confronting, to say the least...
16 JAN 2019
4 min read (731 words)
ADOLF HITLER AND THE PSYCHIATRISTS
PSYCHIATRIC DEBATE ON THE GERMAN DICTATOR’S MENTAL STATE IN THE LANCET
Adolf Hitler’s sanity was questioned by many, including psychiatrists. Attempts to understand the German dictator’s mental state started with his ascension to power in 1933 and continue up to the present, providing a historiography that is far more revealing about changing trends in medicine than it is about his mental state....
27 FEB 2017
20 min read (3827 words)
A NOVEL PROPHECY FULFILLED
Half a century ago author Stanley Crawford nailed the future with a now all-but-forgotten book's take on what has become mundane: everyone lost in their mobile phones, every freeway feeding into supermarkets, service stations, burger joints. Between guffaws, you might recognise our modern world.
Fifty year on, Stanley Crawford’s 1966 novel GASCOYNE is a forgotten treasure waiting to be rediscovered. Theprotagonist, GASCOYNE (always written in upper case, which I will ignore in this instance, as this site’s editor tells me the typography looks terrible) is a wheeler-dealer who owns petrol stations, supermarkets, real estate, housing estates, banks, and a secret zoological warfare research facility. In addition, selling dud vehicles to the government, running hookers and managing the drug trade keeps the meter ticking over...
12 FEB 2017
6 min read (1138 words)
MORE THAN A HOLE IN THE HEAD
THE LEAKING OF MODERN MINDS
The expression ‘a hole in the head’ has more application than one could imagine.
Trepanning, the process of drilling a hole in the skull, holds the distinction of being the oldest surgical operation. Circumcision admittedly may have beaten it but, as discarded foreskins are oddly reluctant to fossilise, it will remain an open question...
30 MAR 2016
5 min read (952 words)
DUPING THE DUPES:
BELLE GIBSON’S DECEPTION DANCE
Deception, a ubiquitous practice in nature, occurs with equal facility among the human species. It is when it occurs with disease or tragedy that it causes the most consternation.
The latest example to catch our attention is winsome 23-year old single mother Belle Gibson. On social media she claimed to have vanquished intractable cancers by a program of healthy diet and positive thinking. As her fame escalated, she rode the well-worn celebrity path of talk show appearances and publication of a book with the fetching title of The Wholeness Pantry...
30 MAR 2016
6 min read (1125 words)
HOW YOUR FRONTAL LOBES CAN TURN YOU INTO ANOTHER PERSON
Woody Allen’s 1983 black and white movie Zelig depicted an amazing character who had the ability to take on another personality and even change his appearance, convincing people that he was someone else.
Among the personalities Zelig assumed were those of a rabbi, Red Indian, Chinese laundryman, midwife, baseball player, psychiatrist and Nazi. One of Allen’s most charming movies, afterwards viewers had two questions: who was the Zelig character based on, and what could explain this intriguing phenomenon...
29 MAR 2016
6 min read (1084 words)
A NEW ZEALAND PIONEER AT THE MAUDSLEY
An account of the life of pioneer New Zealand psychiatrist Mary Barkas.
At a time when women were rare in psychiatry, New Zealand-born Mary Barkas excelled. A pioneer in the early years of the Maudsley Hospital, Barkas demonstrated her versatility in organic psychiatry, psychoanalysis and child psychiatry. Her career was terminated at an early stage and her life took a puzzling turn after she returned to New Zealand in 1933. Many questions about this intriguing and accomplished psychiatrist need to be explored...
1 MAR 2016
12 min read (2247 words)
DR GOSNELL’S HOUSE OF HORRORS
The 2011 trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, 72, on eight counts of murder attracted world-wide headlines.
Police who searched the West Philadelphia clinic premises found filthy blood-stained rooms with foetal body parts in glass jars and refrigerators, describing it as a house of horrors. Gosnell was charged with killing a pregnant refugee and seven newborn infants. Gosnell, who made millions from abortions and dispensing addictive painkillers, also faced a separate trial on prescription drug charges...
18 DEC 2015
4 min read (604 words)
LEG LOPPING FOR BEGINNERS – NOT
In 2000 Scottish surgeon Robert Smith was charged with an unusual form of medical misconduct: amputating the healthy limbs of two men.
The patients had long desired to be rid of their offending limb, and either attempted to damage it, or threatened to do so until they were successful if they could not get a surgical amputation. After protracted deliberation, the tribunal ruled that Smith was forbidden to amputate any more healthy limbs...
16 DEC 2015
5 min read (827 words)
A PSYCHIATRIC VOYAGE TO THE 'NEW' SOUTH AFRICA
The World Cup 2015 showed how far South Africa has come since its darkest days. On his recent return home, expatriate and psychiatrist Robert M. Kaplan found that some things haven't changed...
9 DEC 2015
- min read (- words)
THE BIZARRE CAREER OF AUBREY LEVIN
The conviction on three charges of sexual assault of male prisoners under his care has led to South African-born psychiatrist Dr Aubrey Levin (73) being sentenced to five years in jail in Calgary, Canada.1 The trial was widely reported in Canada. Unknown to the jury and the general public was Levin’s history in South Africa as the chief of psychiatry in the South African Defence Force (SADF) during the Apartheid years, something Levin had gone to considerable lengths to hide by threatening to apply Canada’s defamation laws....
9 APR 2015
7 min read (1300 words)
THE PROPHET EZEKIEL AND THE HISTORY OF HIS PEOPLE
It is a critical period for the Israelite nation. In 597 BCE, Nebuchadrezzar pillages the Temple, taking King Jehoiachin and a group of prominent citizens back to Babylon. The exiles keep their religious and national identity and use their skills as artisans. Among them is the man we known as the Prophet Ezekiel.....
9 FEB 2015
7 min read (1369 words)
THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN PAINTING OF SCHIZOPHRENIA BY IVOR FRANCIS
Article examining the 1943 surrealistic painting Schizophrenia by Ivor Francis, the first major Australian art work depicting a mental disorder. Francis was influenced by Max Harris who encouraged him to read works on surrealism and psychoanalysis, but took his ideas from the book on schizophrenia by the radical Melbourne psychiatrist, Reg Ellery....
5 NOV 2014
11 min read (2186 words)
SCRATCHING TO DEATH
The celebrated singer, Joni Mitchell, has been admitted to hospital after being found unconscious. Miss Mitchell is reported to be suffering from Morgellons Disease, a condition that was scarcely known at the turn of the century. While the circumstances that led to her admission are not clear, there is much to say about Morgellons, a good example of how illness is as much a cultural and social matter as it is of disease – the substance of which can be seen under a microscope or in a pathology bottle...
9 OCT 2014
7 min read (1302 words)
PSYCHIATRY’S FOOTLING PSYCHOSIS:
WHY THE DSM IS DAMNED, DRUGS
“We think we think with our brains. But personally I think with my feet. That's the only way I really come into contact with anything solid. I do occasionally think with my forehead, when I bang into something. But I've seen enough electroencephalograms to know there's not the slightest trace of a thought in the brain”...
9 JUN 2014
7 min read (1320 words)
HUMPHRY FORTESCUE OSMOND, A RADICAL AND CONVENTIONAL PSYCHIATRIST:
THE TRANSCENDENT YEARS
Article describing the life and work of the psychiatrist Humphry Osmond who pursued a radical path as a psychiatrist while he remained within the establishment. To the public mind however, he is best known as the man who introduced Aldous Huxley to mescaline and coined the iconic word psychedelic. From an early stage of his career, Henry Osmond embraced new ideas to break the nexus in psychiatry at a time when neither biological nor psychoanalytic treatments were shown to have much benefit. To do this, he joined the radical social experiment in health in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan where he initiated a range of innovations that attracted international attention, as well as controversy over his espousal of the use of hallucinogens better to understand the experiences of psychotic patients....
21 MAR 2014
29 min read (5631 words)
THE SORDID STORY OF SYBIL
THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY BEHIND THE FAMOUS MULTIPLE PERSONALITY CASE
Review of Debbie Nathan. Sybil Exposed. The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case. Free Press, 2011...
8 NOV 2011
10 min read (1955 words)
WHAT LIES BURIED IN THE AUSTRIAN PSYCHE?
While ordinary Austrians reacted with shock and outrage to the Fritzl case, many commentators have pointed to parallels and precedents that suggest, perhaps, the uncomfortable truth that society ought to have been more vigilant. Forensic psychiatrist and historian Robert M Kaplan asks why nobody questioned what was happening behind closed doors...
9 FEB 2011
14 min read (2667 words)
MEET THE HAMMER-WIELDING NEIGHBOUR FROM HELL
The picture of demure innocence at the interview table, Ellen’s straight black hair hung down to her shoulders, large eyes gazing around, blouse opened just enough to show a small glimpse of cleavage, the picture of a relaxed, friendly and cooperative person.
The matter in question, however, was not insignificant. Ellen and her partner, a female-to-male transsexual, lived in an apartment with her dog and several parrots. Another couple lived in the unit along-side. He was mostly away on shift work, but his partner, being unemployed, spent her time at home. She, too, had a dog. The couples had little to do with each other, although Ellen had once banged on the wall in annoyance when the music was played too loudly.....
9 JUL 2010
5 min read (941 words)
GORDON PARKER AND THE SWEDISH STUDY:
UNITARY PSYCHOSIS REDIVIDUS?
After Goldney’s rebuttal of Parker’s de haut en bas apothegms, only one question remains to be added: why ignore the elephant in the room: the unitary psychosis?...
1 JUL 2010
2 min read (366 words)
COOKING FOR NON-COOKS:
For the inexpert among us, cooking for a crowd can be daunting. Robert M. Kaplan has this easy-to-follow guide to impressing meat-eating guests – and it goes down well with herring-eating Swedish ladies, too....
9 APR 2010
5 min read (943 words)
THE PASSING OF Michael Jackson, who simultaneously qualified for the titles of “The King of Pop” and “Wacko Jacko”, triggered the predictable media frenzy. Jackson wafted to the great concert hall in the sky on a tidal wave of narcotics, an interesting fate for a man of 50 with three children who constantly proclaimed that he was confined to the fantasy world of Peter Pan.
From just about anyone who qualified for the title of entertainer, celebrity, ambitious self-promoter, religious evangelist or Bill Clinton, came patently disingenuous hyperbole about Jackson’s contribution to popular music – bearing in mind these were the same individuals who could not run far enough away when he was facing child abuse charges.....
9 NOV 2009
5 min read (815 words)
SAVONAROLA AT THE STAKE:
THE RISE AND FALL OF ROY MEADOW
The death of Sally Clark, 42, on 16 March 2007 was yet another sad chapter in the story of medical hubris, misguided zeal and medical lynching that constitutes the saga of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) and the rise and fall of Roy Meadow. Mrs Clark was jailed in 1999 for killing her 11-week-old son, Christopher, in December 1996 and 8-week-old Harry in January 1998. The first appeal against the convictions failed in 2000 but she was freed in 2003 after a fresh appeal. A crucial factor in her conviction was evidence from Meadow that there was a "one in 73 million" chance of two children dying from cot deaths in an affluent family. It was this statement, more than anything else, that sealed Meadow's fate and precipitated a catastrophic downfall...
1 JUN 2008
58 min read (11417 words)
THE NEUROPSYCHIATRY OF SHAMANISM
The shamanic state is a human constant, arising from the substrate of the brain. Hunter-gatherer shamanism is based on altered states of consciousness, induced by a variety of means....
1 APR 2006
34 min read (6636 words)
HAGIOGRAPHIC TREATMENT OF C.G. JUNG
THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY
While it is understandable that space limitations prevented Sam C. Naifeh, M.D., from providing greater detail on C.G. Jung, the biographic information provided was so one-sided that it verged on the hagiographic. While Jung undoubtedly was a pioneer at a time when organic psychiatry was on hiatus, most of his ideas have not stood the test of time, and it is difficult to believe that psychiatry today owes any significant debt to his contribution....
1 FEB 2003
2 min read (321 words)
DOCTOR TO THE DICTATOR:
THE CAREER OF THEODOR MORELL, PERSONAL PHYSICIAN TO ADOLF HITLER
The history of psychiatry and psychiatric history is woefully neglected in trainin gand professional studies. Examination of the former not only helps understand the science we practice, but puts it into context. The latter highlights the effect of illness on the famous and infamous, the consequences of which resonate through history...
1 DEC 2002
15 min read (2832 words)