Abuse At The Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women

There's many things one can focus upon when researching the history of old buildings in the UK. I'm sure that the majority of the work done at the Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women* was helpful, kind, and ultimately led to better lives for those receiving the treatment.

That's not what caught my eye when I read up about it, and why I have edited the photo like this.
Highly edited dramatic photograph of stone steps up to a building entrance. Above the entrance is a coat of arms and the date 1816. A red brick balcony is above as the building disappears off up.
This dude worked here and likely walked up those very steps on a daily basis:
William Walters Sargant (died 1988) was a British psychiatrist who is remembered for the evangelical zeal with which he promoted treatments such as psychosurgery, deep sleep treatment, electroconvulsive therapy and insulin shock therapy.
He was able to use the top floor Ward 5, including "the Narcosis Room", within the hospital as he worked at St Thomas' from 1948 to 1972:
.. while the amalgamation of St Thomas’ and nearby Royal Waterloo Hospital provided Sargant with a 22-bed ward for his in-patients (this was to become his ward for continuous narcosis or deep sleep treatment).
There's much to read about what this man did to women inside that building and most of it comes from himself as he spoke of it proudly:
"For several years past we have been treating severe resistant depression with long periods of sleep treatment. We can now keep patients asleep or very drowsy for up to 3 months if necessary. During sleep treatment we also give them ECT and anti-depressant drugs".
Sargant used narcosis (sleep treatment) to overcome a patient's refusal of electroconvulsive therapy, or even deliver it without their knowledge. I mean, WTF, if he thought you should be pumped full of drugs but you weren't so keen he'd put you to sleep and do it anyway!?
"Many patients unable to tolerate a long course of ECT, can do so when anxiety is relieved by narcosis ... What is so valuable is that they generally have no memory about the actual length of the treatment or the numbers of ECT used ... After 3 or 4 treatments they may ask for ECT to be discontinued because of an increasing dread of further treatments. Combining sleep with ECT avoids this ...".
Sargant also advocated increasing the frequency of ECT sessions for those he describes as "resistant, obsessional patients" in order to produce "therapeutic confusion" and so remove their power of refusal. In addition he states:
"All sorts of treatment can be given while the patient is kept sleeping, including a variety of drugs and ECT [which] together generally induce considerable memory loss for the period under narcosis. As a rule the patient does not know how long he has been asleep, or what treatment, even including ECT, he has been given. Under sleep ... one can now give many kinds of physical treatment, necessary, but often not easily tolerated."
Nightmare stuff eh.

The outcome of this was 'mixed'. However it's known to have led to the death of four women whilst in their induced comas, and life changing mental effects on others.

There are also hints (but no concrete evidence) that he wasn't just doing this out of some misguided ego-driven benefit to the patients but was also experimenting on behalf of the UK & US military/secret services. He was in regular touch with  Donald Ewen Cameron who was a complete bastard. Jeez.

In 1973 Sargant retired and took all the medical records from Ward 5 with him before personally destroying them. The ward was closed down.

The Royal Waterloo Hospital closed on 27 July 1976.

If you'd like to hear from women that were subjected to this horrendous treatment then read the 2013 Daily Mail article, The Zombie Ward.

As I said at the top of this post, whilst "I'm sure that the majority of the work done at the [..] Hospital [..] was helpful, kind, and ultimately led to better lives for those receiving the treatment", the minority of abuse coordinated by Sargant does draw ones eye away from this good and towards the destructive and misguided. 

Source for all quotes: 
William Sargant. (2024). Retrieved March 23, 2024, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sargant


* this hospital has had many names:
  1. Universal Dispensary for Children, 1816
  2. Royal Universal Dispensary for Children, 1821
  3. Royal Universal Infirmary for Children, 1824
  4. Royal Infirmary for Children, 1843
  5. Royal Infirmary for Children and Women, 1852
  6. Royal Hospital for Children and Women, 1875
  7. Royal Waterloo Hospital for Children and Women, 1903

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