Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Louis Jolyon West, M.D.: A dangerous doctor

Howard Fischer
Uppsala, Sweden

“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”
– The Nuremburg Code, Section on Permissible Human Experiments (1946)1

Photo by RDNE Stock Project on Pexels 

Louis J. West, M.D. (1924–1999), was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a poor immigrant family. He enlisted in the US Army during World War Two, was sent to medical school at the University of Minnesota, and graduated in 1949. After a psychiatry residency, he served in the US Air Force until 1956. His studies of “brainwashing” and psychological torture helped exonerate American airmen who, after capture in Korea, confessed to or cooperated with Korean accusations against the US of war crimes, particularly those of bacteriological warfare. West’s testimony saved the Americans from courts-martial. He participated in sit-ins with civil rights demonstrators and opposed capital punishment. He performed psychiatric examinations on Jack Ruby, the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald, who had assassinated President John F. Kennedy, and also on Patricia “Patty” Hearst, the heiress turned urban guerilla. He also spoke out against Scientology.2

Some of West’s research on mind control was done as part of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Project MKUltra, from 1953–1973. Illegal human experimentation was done to develop procedures and drugs to weaken people and force confessions through psychological torture and brainwashing. These experiments were carried out at over eighty institutions, including military bases, schools, universities, hospitals, and prisons. Special brothels were established where customers were secretly dosed with psychoactive substances. The drugs tested included LSD, amphetamines, mescaline, psilocybin, and scopolamine. The drugs were combined, in institutional settings, with electroconvulsive (“shock”) treatments, hypnosis, isolation, and sensory deprivation. Several people died or were permanently damaged.3,4

At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where West served as psychiatrist, a young airman was accused of raping and murdering a child in 1954. He had a young, stable family and no history of aggressive or criminal behavior. Witnesses who saw him after the crime was committed said he seemed “high.” The secret records of MKUltra experiments at the air base were missing the records filed under “S”, the first letter of the airman’s last name. Suspicion persists whether this airman, who was executed for the crime, had been given LSD.5

Between 1969 and 1973, West made plans for the “world’s first and only center for the study of interpersonal violence.”6 This center (first called “Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence,” and later on “Center for the Long-term Study of Life-threatening Behavior ”) was to gather “unprecedented amounts of behavioral data,” store them, and use them to predict crime, and to make early diagnosis of emergent crime (“predictive policing”) and of “pathologically violent individuals.” It would then offer treatment and prevention of violent behavior. By 1972 the proposed center had funding from the California State Department of Mental Hygiene and the California Council on Criminal Justice. Federal funding and money from private foundations were also expected. California governor Ronald Reagan liked the idea of the center, and mentioned it favorably in a “state of the state” speech. Segments of the public were not as enthusiastic. Between 1968 and 1974, a “wave” of psychosurgery was being performed in US hospitals, and there was concern that the center would refer patients for this type of treatment.7,8 West prevaricated, but stated that he was not opposed to psychosurgery.

A protest flyer from 1973 stated that the “basic assumptions of the research are racist,” in that the people who were to be studied were young, black, urban boys and men.9 The data were, in fact, to be collected at two junior high schools (meaning grades 7–9, or 12–14-year-olds), one in a “Black ethnic area; the other in a predominantly Chicano area.”10 Study rationale also mentioned “rising radicalness” among Blacks and Chicanos.11 Protesters countered that protesting against “rotten conditions” is not a “disease.”12 This may remind one of the pseudo-disease of “drapetomania,”13 the need of slaves to run away from their captivity. Protesters also pointed out that children who were wards of the court might be experimented on, as parental consent was not required.14

The “protesters prevailed” and funding was withdrawn.15 West retired as chair of the psychiatry department at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1989.


  1. “Nuremburg Code.” Wikipedia.
  2. “Louis Jolyon West.” Wikipedia.
  3. “Louis Jolyon West,” Wikipedia.
  4. Shaan Bhambra. “The Montreal experiments: Brainwashing, and the ethics of psychiatric experimentation.” Hektoen International, Spring 2019. https://hekint.org/2019/04/30/the-montreal-experiments-brainwashing-and-the-ethics-of-psychiatric-experimentation/
  5. Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring. “Inside the archive of an LSD researcher with ties to the CIA’s MKUltra mind control project.” The Intercept, November 24, 2019.
  6. Philip Hilts. “Louis J. West, psychiatrist who studied extremes, dies.” New York Times, January 9, 1999.
  7. Hilts, “Louis J. West.”
  8. Rebecca Lemov. “An episode in the history of precrime.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 48(5) Special Issue: Histories of Data and the Database, November 2018.
  9. “The center for the study and reduction of violence at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute,” Treebearblog.wordpress.com, November 21, 2021. Site may not run properly without an ad blocker.
  10. Alex Constantine. “Fascists in white coats: The CIA’s Dr. Louis Jolyon West and the UCLA neuropsychiatric unit.” Constantine Report, April 24, 2013.
  11. Constantine, “Fascists.”
  12. “The center,” Treebearblog.
  13. Howard Fischer. “Drapetomania: A ‘disease’ that never was.” Hektoen International, Fall 2022. https://hekint.org/2022/10/06/drapetomania-a-disease-that-never-was/
  14. “The center,” Treebearblog.
  15. Lemov, “An episode.”

HOWARD FISCHER, M.D., was a professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan.

Winter 2024



One response

  1. I’ve recently heard that after Jack Ruby was visited by a CIA official while in custody he was dosed with a high amount of psychotropic drugs, just like Epstein. Although you did mention West was involved as Ruby’s psychiatrist the man himself was all mobbed up with various Jewish and Italian basic criminal ties into the underworld. As well as touching up on West starting out his California tour in San Francisco’s Hate-Ashbury community after “67 setting up shop with several colleagues to study the hippy counter culture movement. There’s been certain allegations or references during this specific time in question where he was said to have been Charles Manson’s psychiatrist if not handler, where it’s alleged that he bailed out Manson out of a minor skirmish with the local police department at the time. This was prior to the Tate gang slaughter. How did Manson convince the gang to go along with the plan again? Same way Patty Hearst was convinced to rob the bank with the SLA.

    Regarding Manson though, the uncanny thing being was he was just released on parole for a check cashing and pimping charge where he did ten years, so that minor skirmish should have seen Manson sent away for another 3 – 5 depending on the charges.

    That is until Manson puts a call in to his Doctors if not lawyers to get all charges squashed, that’s the allegation about these folks that study MK Ultra.

    In addition to the MK Ultra biochemical engineer having a change of heart regarding his participation in the program making new drugs and thus flying out his new york high rise window.

    This happens in the 5o’s about 2 years or so after a small village in France gets poisoned with possible ergot contamination in the bread that produces mass hallucinatory type panic. Coincide possibility? The New York Doctor wasn’t suicidal yet he managed to fly out the window after several studies in the United States and elsewhere are conducted where specific groups of individuals are all secretly dosed with several different narcotics at varying levels while some in the group are not then they are secretly observed amongst the group of unsuspecting knowing individuals. Those studies did take place, all in different places locations and so on throughout the 50’s if not extending past it.

    Then there’s MK Ultra depression treatments done throughout various places in 1984 – 85, there’s a Fifth Estate report regarding such treatments where people that underwent it their lives were ruined afterwards.

    As well as those other allegations regarding the Unabomber Ted Kazcinsky also being involved in those lab treatments, and you know how that ended up afterwards 💥💥💥

    Only thing needing connection or validity between France, Manson, and Kazinsky is paperwork, I haven’t looked into Manson and Kazinsky thoroughly but I have looked into various stories regarding the French incident and finding credible evidence leading up to the poisoning would probably be the hardest to prove out of all 3 allegations in question.

    If you research this stuff thoroughly it would be interesting to see a follow-up post, good luck.

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