Leonard Jan Le Vann

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Leonard Jan Le Vann
A black and white image of Dr. Le Vann in the Michener Centre, before a number of empty patient beds.
Picture of Dr. Leonard Jan Le Vann From Heather Pringles's article "Alberta Barren" that was published in 1997 in the magazine Saturday Night[1]
Born (1915-08-01)August 1, 1915
Died September 29, 1987(1987-09-29) (aged 72)
Nationality American

Dr. Leonard Jan Le Vann (1 August 1915 – 29 September 1987)[2] was the medical superintendent at the Alberta Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (also known as the Michener Center)[3] from the years 1949–1974. Although he was born and raised in the United States, Le Vann trained as a physician in Scotland.[3] Throughout his career Le Vann wrote many articles, the majority of which were published during his 25-year career at the Provincial Training School. These articles covered a broad range of topics that include alcoholism, schizophrenia and experimental treatments of antipsychotic drugs.[4][5] In 1974 Le Vann resigned from the training center, which was due to the Conservative Party of Alberta’s repeal against the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta.[3] Furthermore, there has been plenty of controversy about how he ran the school. This controversy has been brought to attention mainly because of the Leilani Muir trial that took place in 1995. Although Le Vann was already deceased at the time of the trial, his name was brought to the court’s attention on many separate occasions.[6]

Early Life of Dr. L. J. Le Vann[edit]

Le Vann was originally an American citizen, and completed his undergraduate degree at the Ethical Culture School in New York.[7] However, he did not attend an American medical school. In 1939 he was accepted into the Junior House Surgeon, Royal Informatory, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His studies were briefly interrupted when he joined the Spanish Civil War as an anesthetist. Once he returned from the war he became a Junior House Surgeon, Royal Infirmary for the department of Neurosurgery in Edinburgh.[2] Then, in 1943 he completed his training and graduated from Lincentiate Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh Scotland. Upon graduating, Le Vann performed one year of general practice in England during WWII at which time he was awarded a medal for bravery.[7] In 1944, Le Vann moved to Essex, England; he began to practice psychiatry as a postgraduate student. Le Vann held the position at Sevealls Mental hospital in Colchester, Essex, UK for four years before moving on to a new endeavor.

In 1948, Le Vann moved to Canada and began to practice psychiatry at the Brandon Mental Hospital in Manitoba. Finally, in 1949 he was hired as the medical superintendent for the Provincial Training School.[2]

Involvement with the Alberta Training School for Mental Defectives[edit]

A black and white image of the Michener Centre
The Alberta Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (also known as the Michener Center)[3]

As superintendent of the Provincial Training School Le Vann duties were to manage the school, to perform psychological analysis and to operate when other professionals were not available.[3] Another of his major responsibility was to analyze the students that were candidates for sterilization.[3] Once a sterilization request was approved by the Alberta Eugenics Board the school would use a number of different techniques to sterilize the child. The most popular were bilateral salpingectomy and oophorectomies for the female students and vasectomies and castration for the male students.[3]

Another one of Le Vann’s tasks as the acting superintendent of the training center was to conduct experiments on the effectiveness of different antipsychotic drugs. He experimented with compounds such as "trifluoperazine (Le Vann 1959), thioridazine (Le Vann 1961), trifluperidol (Le Vann 1968) and haloperidol and chlorpromazine.[5]"

Le Vann also believed that for the children to develop to their highest potential a balance between work, education and play was required. This became known as the workhouse model.[3] It was standard practice to have teenage girls "spend their days scrubbing floors, making meals and dressing and changing the diapers of the severely disabled students ".[3] As for the less cognitively defective male students, he would have them milk cows and perform other laborious tasks.[3]

In 1960 Le Vann had his most famous patient admitted to the Provincial Training School. The premier of Alberta, Ernest Manning, entrusted the well being of his son, Keith to Le Vann. Le Vann provided excellent service to the premier’s son, providing him with a special double room and the use of a typewriter.[3]

Le Vann was the superintendent of the Provincial Training School for twenty-five years. He did however break his tenure in 1951 for a ten-month period where he was the Clinical Director of Western State Hospital in Kentucky, USA.[7] In 1971 the Conservative party of Alberta won the election. Soon after, they repealed the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta.[3] This had an immense impact on the school, "closing wards and tearing down dorms". Eventually in 1974, Dr. Leonard Jan Le Vann resigned from the facility. The old Provincial Training School was eventually closed and renamed the Michener Center.[3] As of 2009 the Michener center supports 274 adults by "providing an impressive range of recreational, social, residential, spiritual and health services."[8]

Dr. L.J. Le Vann’s Controversial Practices At the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives[edit]

As superintendent of the Provincial Training School, Le Vann was a key player in many sterilizations and antipsychotic drug experiments that took place through the 1950s and 1960s.[3] Not much was known about his methods and procedures at the Provincial Training School until they surfaced at the Leilani Muir trial. First, it was discovered that he was never fully accredited as a psychiatrist in Canada or England.[6] This is very shocking as it was said that during his twenty-five year reign he almost always would refer a child with a mental deficiency for sterilization, even when the child’s IQ greatly exceeded seventy, the legal upper cut off for sterilization. It was as though the child’s fate was sealed before the day of their trial.[3]

Another frightening claim that has been made is that the school never informed the trainees that they were being sterilized. Instead the Provincial Training School would often lie and tell them that their appendix had to be removed which required a surgery.[3]

In addition, Le Vann also utilized his power at the school to carry out his own experiments using the children as his "personal guinea pigs".[5] When he was conducting his experiments on the effectiveness of different antipsychotic drugs he never obtained any consent from parents or guardians. No one was informed about what was going on during the trials. Another unethical routine that surfaced from the trial of Leilani Muir was that he would routinely castrate male "Mongols" (males with Down Syndrome) even though these children were already sterile. During the trial it was discovered that he and Dr. Thompson were conducting experiments on the testicular tissue of the Down syndrome males.[6]

Furthermore, it was stated that Le Vann showed very little compassion toward the children.[9] During the trial, a quote that he wrote in the American Journal of Mental Deficiency was produced. It stated, "The comparison between the normal child and the idiot might almost be a comparison between two separate species. On the one hand, the graceful, intelligently curious, active young Homo sapiens, and on the other the gross, retarded, animalistic, early primate type individual.[6]"

Le Vann drafted his students for experiments in a controversial manner. There have been claims that state if a trainee did not adhere to his workhouse model or misbehaved they would be punished by being registered in an experimental drug trial. Furthermore, in the 1950s, a psychologist, Laughlin Taylor, "discovered that Le Vann was threatening children with sterilization if they did not behave.[3]"

Le Vann also ran the school with favoritism; in 1960 when premier of Alberta, Ernest Manning admitted his son Keith into the facility, he was "showered with privileges ".[3] These included getting to pick his own roommate for his special double room while everyone else was forced to sleep four to a room. He was also free to keep games and a typewriter in his room, along with other small luxuries that the other trainees were not allowed.[3]

Finally, the way he managed the school was with great attention to detail. He believed in structure, whether it was a proper way of making the beds in the wards to recording detailed notes on each student. These notes were kept by the nurses and stored a variety of information. This information ranged from bowel movements to the student’s interest in the opposite sex. He also had a rule at the ward, that "no nurse, attendant, or matron was permitted to speak to a superior unless spoken to ".[3] This was the way that he ran his school, as an authoritarian.[9]

Research[edit]

A picture of the cover of the Canadian Medical Association Journal's 86th issue, with a list of articles, including Dr. Le Vann's work on Chlordiazepoxide
Title page of the Canadian Medical Association Journal including Le Vann’s article, Chlordiazepoxide, a tranquillizer with anticonvulsant properties Canadian Medical Association Journal, 86, 123-125.

During the years that Le Vann Worked at the school he published a number of documents ranging over many topics. The majority of his work however was focused on the antipsychotic drugs.[1][3][4][10]

In 1953 Le Vann published an article that discussed odor and its negative implications within mental institutions and mental hospitals. In the article he discusses how using a water-soluble chlorophyll derivative has proved to be effective in reducing the odor in the wards. He hoped that by reducing the odor at these facilities there would be an improved rate of recruitment and retention of medical professionals.[1]

Le Vann published another article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 1953 entitled "A Clinical Survey of Alcoholics". In this CMAJ paper he discussed the social implications of alcoholism, and shared his view stating that the government should have more strict regulations on alcoholic beverages including a safe dosage epilogue.[4] Le Vann also describes the two types of alcoholics, primary and reactive. According to his study, the primary alcoholic is more likely to respond to group therapy. In contrast, the reactive alcoholic responds best to individual sessions. Furthermore, the reactive alcoholic is more likely to commit suicide when administered therapeutic drugs such as Disulfiram. Finally, Le Vann illustrates that cultures with strong father figures are less likely to resort to alcohol and to lead a life of alcoholism.

Le Vann also researched the effectiveness of drugs such as chlordiazepoxide, chlorpromazine, haperidol, trifluperidol, and trifluoperazine dihyrochloride. In his 1959 article Trifluoperazine Dihyrochloride: an effective tranquilizing agent for behavioral abnormalities in defective children, Le Vann treated 33 patients. These consisted of "14 idiots, 14 imbeciles and two morons[10]". All of these patients had responded negatively to the previously administered antipsychotic drugs. The experiment was administered over an eight-week period where he recorded the behaviors of the subjects that had been given the Trifluoperazine Dihyrochloride. The results showed that almost all the patients had reduced abnormal behavior and in some cases the subject was completely controlled.[10]

Disputes Against His Research[edit]

Le Vann published another article based on the number of congenital malformations between the years 1959-1961. He suggested in his article that there is an increase in the amount of defective births and that pregnant women should take "drugs" as a way to lower the incident rate.[11] The review of the article found there to be no correlation between the radioactive fallout and the amount of birth defects. Secondly, the article points out that Le Vann never indicated what a "drug" qualified as. Finally, Adler illustrates that this seemed to be a strange practice and drugs should be administered as a last resort.

Publications By Dr. Leonard Jan Le Vann[edit]

  • Le Vann, L. J. (1953). A clinical survey of alcoholics Canadian Medical Association Journal, 69(6), 584-588.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1953). Controlling unpleasant odors among mental patients Hospitals, 27(2), 93-94.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1959). Trifluoperazine dihydrochloride: An effective tranquillizing agent for behavioural abnormalities in defective children Canadian Medical Association Journal, 80(2), 123-124.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1960). A pilot project for emotionally disturbed children in Alberta Canadian Medical Association Journal, 83, 524-527.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1961). The use of neuroleptics in mental deficiency Revue Canadienne De Biologie / Editee Par l'Universite De Montreal, 20, 495-500.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1962). Chlordiazepoxide, a tranquillizer with anticonvulsant properties Canadian Medical Association Journal, 86, 123-125.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1963). Congenital abnormalities in Alberta Canadian Medical Association Journal, 89(12), 627.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1963). Congenital abnormalities in children born in Alberta during 1961: A survey and a hypothesis Canadian Medical Association Journal, 89(3), 120-126.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1968). A new butyrophenone: Trifluperidol. A psychiatric evaluation in a pediatric setting Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 13(3), 271-273.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1969). Haloperidol in the treatment of behavioural disorders in children and adolescents Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 14(2), 217-220.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1971). Clinical comparison of haloperidol with chlorpromazine in mentally retarded children American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 75(6), 719-723.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Le Vann, L. J. (1953). Controlling unpleasant odors among mental patients Hospitals, 27(2), 93-94.
  2. ^ a b c Le Vann, L. J. (n.d). Medical History. Red Deer Archives
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Heather Pringle. (1997, June). Alberta barren. Saturday Night, 112(5), 30-39. Retrieved March 29, 2011, from CBCA Reference and Current Events. (Document ID: 123821)
  4. ^ a b c Le Vann, L. J. (1953). A clinical survey of alcoholics Canadian Medical Association Journal, 69(6), 584-588,
  5. ^ a b c Wahlsten, D. (2003). Airbrushing heritability Genes, Brain and Behavior, 2(6), 327 <last_page> 329. doi:10.1046/j.1601-1848.2003.00031.x
  6. ^ a b c d Muir v. Alberta (1996) , 132 D.L.R. (4th) 695
  7. ^ a b c Former Michener Center Director Dies. (1987, Oct 1st ). Red Deer Advocate.
  8. ^ PDD central - Michener Services Retrieved 4/7/2011, 2011, from http://www.pdd.org/central/michener/default.shtml
  9. ^ a b Don Thomas, Journal Staff Writer. (1995, June 22). Boys feared sterilization, trial told; Operation was standard practice; THE MUIR FILE :[FINAL Edition]. Edmonton Journal, B.3. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 21080170).
  10. ^ a b c Le Vann, L. J. (1959). Trifluoperazine dihydrochloride: An effective tranquillizing agent for behavioural abnormalities in defective children Canadian Medical Association Journal, 80(2), 123-124.
  11. ^ Le Vann, L. J. (1963). Congenital abnormalities in Alberta Canadian Medical Association Journal, 89(12), 627.

References[edit]

  • Adler, K. (1963). Congenital Abnormalities in Alberta Canadian Medical Association Journal, 89(12), 1002.
  • Thomas, D., Journal Staff Writer. (1995, June 22). Boys feared sterilization, trial told; Operation was standard practice; THE MUIR FILE :[FINAL Edition]. Edmonton Journal, B.3. Retrieved March 23, 2011, from Canadian Newsstand Core. (Document ID: 21080170).
  • Pringle, H. (1997, June). Alberta barren. Saturday Night, 112(5), 30-39. Retrieved March 29, 2011, from CBCA Reference and Current Events. (Document ID: 123821
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1953). A clinical survey of alcoholics Canadian Medical Association Journal, 69(6), 584-588.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1953). Controlling unpleasant odors among mental patients Hospitals, 27(2), 93-94.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1959). Trifluoperazine dihydrochloride: An effective tranquillizing agent for behavioural abnormalities in defective children Canadian Medical Association Journal, 80(2), 123-124.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (1963). Congenital abnormalities in Alberta Canadian Medical Association Journal, 89(12), 627.
  • Muir v. Alberta (1996), 132 D.L.R. (4th) 695
  • Wahlsten, D. (2003). Airbrushing heritability Genes, Brain and Behavior, 2(6), 327 <last_page> 329. doi:10.1046/j.1601-1848.2003.00031.x
  • PDD central - Michener Services Retrieved 4/7/2011, 2011, from http://www.pdd.org/central/michener/default.shtml
  • Former Michener Center Director Dies. (1987, Oct 1st ). Red Deer Advocate.
  • Le Vann, L. J. (n.d). Medical History. Red Deer Archives

External Resources[edit]

Alberta Barren: The Mannings and forced sterilization in Canada - http://statismwatch.ca/1997/06/01/alberta-barren-the-mannings-and-forced-sterilization-in-canada/