Harry Bailey

For other people named Harry Bailey, see Harry Bailey (disambiguation).

Harry Richard Bailey (29 October 1922, Picton, New South Wales – 8 September 1985, Mount White, New South Wales) was a controversial Australian psychiatrist and hospital administrator. He bore the primary responsibility for treatment of mental patients and drug dependent clients via deep sleep therapy, and other methods, at a mental hospital on the Sydney North Shore suburb of Pennant Hills, in which he was principal of. He has been linked with the deaths of a total of 85 patients, including 19 that committed suicide[1] He committed suicide while being investigated. One of Bailey's best known clients was Australian rock and pop singer and songwriter Stevie Wright, who was being treated for methadone addiction, a report that was later part of a 2013 documentary on Australian Story[2]

Early life and training

Harry Richard Bailey[3] was born on 29 October 1922 in Picton to Jack Nelson Bailey, a stationmaster and railway officer and Ruth Kathleen Bailey née Smith, and attended Christian Brothers at Waverley before enrolling in science at University of Sydney, he did not complete his studies and took a position as a pharmacist's assistant and whereas most of his compatriots who specialized in psychiatry sought out their advanced further training in Britain, Bailey worked in Louisiana with Robert Heath of Tulane University. He also studied electroconvulsive therapy and surgical and pharmacological care under Sir William Trethowan and Cedric Howell Swanton back in Australia.

Deep sleep therapy (DST)

In 1952 Bailey was assistant director of clinical psychiatry for the public health service. Between 1962 and 1979, he served as chief psychiatrist at Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney's northwest. Under his care, 26 Chelmsford patients died.[4] The last of these deaths occurred in the early hours of 12 August 1977.[5]

DST was Bailey's invention, a cocktail of barbiturates to put patients into a coma lasting up to 39 days, while also administering electro-convulsive therapy (ECT). Bailey likened the treatment to switching off a television; his self-developed theory was that the brain, by shutting down for an extended period, would "unlearn" habits that led to depression, addiction and other psychiatric conditions. Bailey claimed to have learnt DST from psychiatrists in Britain and Europe, though it was later found that only a mild variant was used there, sedating traumatised ex-soldiers for a few hours at a time, not the median 14 days under which Bailey and his colleague Dr John Herron subjected their 1,127 DST patients at Chelmsford between 1963 and 1979.[5]

Chelmsford investigation

The resultant scandal broke in the early 1980s, following two 60 Minutes programs in 1980 and 1982, and closed down Chelmsford entirely. In 1985, the "legal and medical investigative machinery finally co-ordinated their actions and Bailey was facing committal proceedings over the death of Miriam Podio in 1977".[5] The Chelmsford Royal Commission under the Greiner government from 1988 to 1990, headed by Justice John Slattery of the New South Wales Supreme Court, produced findings concerning Chelmsford's treatment program that ran to twelve volumes.and included deplorable conditions, fraud, and misconduct and medical negligence. Bailey committed suicide by ingesting barbiturates at Mount White. He left a note which read: "Let it be known that the Scientologists and the forces of madness have won";[6] the controversial Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology-founded organisation, had been active in publicizing the Chelmsford scandal. The NSW Government have since banned the treatment and have instigated stricter guideline governing the administration and the care of mental patients.


  1. Medical Murder, Robert M. Kaplan
  2. Rachel Browne. "The addiction that took everything from Stevie Wright". Sydney Morning Herald.
  3. Stephen Garton. "Bailey, Harry Richard (1922-1985)".
  4. When power came before patients. Sydney Morning Herald 11 October 1991.
  5. 1 2 3 Malcolm Knox (April 13, 2013). "The big sleep". The Age.
  6. Chandler, Jo; MacDonald, Jacqui (22 April 1991). "The battle to control the mind". The Melbourne Age. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
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