Few names still spook people like that of Ewen Cameron, the famed psychiatrist who came to be described as a mad scientist for his CIA-funded mind-control experiments at Montreal's Allan Memorial Institute.
Now the ghost of the infamous Dr. Cameron has revisited a Montreal courtroom in a lawsuit that has summoned up chillingly familiar allegations of brainwashing and massive electroshock treatments.
Gail Kastner, a 66-year-old Montrealer, says Dr. Cameron's controversial therapy turned her from a brilliant young nursing student into a pathetic zombie.
She has sued the Allan Memorial Institute and federal government for $4.2-million, alleging that federally funded experiments were responsible for her hellish existence.
The case, which wrapped up this week, indicates that Dr. Cameron's bizarre legacy is still being disputed, and that nearly 50 years after the fact, his alleged victims are still stepping out of the shadows.
"They're are still out there," Alan Stein, Ms. Kastner's lawyer, said yesterday. "Canadians were used as guinea pigs by Dr. Cameron."
Ms. Kastner applied to Ottawa for compensation for her treatment by Dr. Cameron, a psychiatrist who experimented in the 1960s with drug-induced sleep combined with repeated jolts of electroconvulsive therapy. Her claim was rejected.
But in an effort to show the devastating effect of Dr. Cameron's treatment, her lawyers brought in a witness to show what Ms. Kastner might have been -- her identical twin sister, Zella.
The two looked so similar they were virtually indistinguishable in high school, Mr. Stein said. Raised in an affluent family, they both became top students. Both loved skating and were popular with boys.
But their similarities ended in 1953, when Gail Kastner was admitted to the Allan Memorial for depression at age 19, her lawyer said. When she left the institution after massive electroshock treatment, she sucked her thumb and spoke in baby talk. She lost her childhood memories. Her marriage collapsed and her son eventually moved out.
Her twin sister, Zella, lived a charmed life of annual trips to the Caribbean. She worked as a sales executive and raised children who became successful adults -- including a son, Lawrence Hoffman, a psychiatrist at the Allan Memorial who came to testify in his aunt's defence. Ms. Kastner's lawyer argued that the Allan Memorial's cocktail of drugs, induced comas and massive electroshock were to blame for her conversion. She ended up living penniless in a garage. "She became a zombie," Mr. Stein said. Lawyers for the Royal Victoria Hospital, to which the Allan Memorial belongs, argued that Ms. Kastner was given medical treatment used at the time.