Margaret Angus "Meg" Patterson MBE (9 November 1922 – 25 July 2002)[2] was a Scottish surgeon and medical missionary in India and Hong Kong. She claimed to be able to treat drug addiction using electric shocks, something she called "neuro-electric therapy" (NET). The reputation gained by NET was based on celebrity endorsements, but there is no evidence that it is an effective treatment.[3][4]

Meg Patterson

Margaret Angus Ingram

(1922-11-09)9 November 1922
Died25 July 2002(2002-07-25) (aged 79)
Lanark, Scotland[1]
EducationUniversity of Aberdeen (MBChB)
University of Edinburgh (MD)
Known forNeuro-electric therapy
RelativesGeorge Patterson

Early life and educationEdit

Margaret Angus Ingram was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1922. The daughter of Alexander Ingram, she was the youngest of five children.[5] Patterson started medical school at 21 during World War II, and qualified as a member Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons when she was 25, the only woman in the group.[6]


Patterson went to India as a medical missionary.[6] While she was in India she met George Patterson in Kalimpong and they married in 1953; the couple were committed Christians.[5] George Patterson had become famous through his involvement with the Dalai Lama, and his reporting on the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the subsequent events in China's annexation of Tibet.[7] For her work establishing and expanding clinics in India she was awarded the MBE in 1961.[6]

In 1964 she moved to Hong Kong with her husband, where she was appointed surgeon-in-charge at Tung Wah Hospital. They remained in Hong Kong until 1973.[7]

In 1972 other doctors in Hong Kong, H.L. Wen and S.Y.C. Cheung, published their work on electroacupuncture for treatment of addiction. Patterson adopted their method, developing a technique called "neuro-electric therapy" (NET), replacing the acupuncture needles with electrodes, making this a form of cranial electrotherapy stimulation.[8][4][9] On returning to the UK she and her husband collaborated to popularise the technique, which became popular with rock and pop stars.[6][10][11][12]

The medical and scientific community was skeptical about the technique. Patterson found herself building clinics with minimal funding, much as she had in India.[6]

In 1976, Patterson set up a clinic in Broadhurst Manor, East Sussex, funded by the Robert Stigwood Organisation. Donors misleadingly marketed the clinic as "a cure for heroin addiction", which it was not. In 1981, funding ran out and she moved the clinic to California.[12]

A 1986 article in New Scientist said that the medical establishment viewed Patterson as a quack for trying to remove addiction with tiny electrical currents, and that the one clinical trial of it found it to be ineffective.[3] People magazine said there was "disbelief and even hostility from Britain’s medical establishment and from the US medical world".[13]

In 1999 Patterson had a major stroke a week after opening a clinic in Tijuana. In 2001 she and her husband returned to Scotland, where she died on 25 July 2002. She was survived by her husband, a daughter, two sons, and five grandchildren.[6][7]

Her husband and one of her sons, Lorne, continued marketing the NET technique.[11] As of 2012, evidence reviewed within NHS Scotland found no good evidence that neuro-electric therapy was helpful in treating opiate addiction.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2013". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Surgeon who helped rock stars kick drugs". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  3. ^ a b Sattuar O (16 January 1986). "Cross currents in treating addiction". New Scientist (1491): 57.
  4. ^ a b c Fingleton M, Matheson CI (December 2012), NeuroElectric Therapy™ in Opiate Detoxification (Review)excerpted at Health Libraries in Lincolnshire Online
  5. ^ a b "Eastern touch at Aberdeen wedding". Aberdeen Evening Express. 12 September 1953.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Patterson, Lorne (7 September 2002). "Margaret Angus Patterson (nee Ingram)". BMJ. 325 (7363): 550–550. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7363.550. PMC 1124070.
  7. ^ a b c "Obituary: George Patterson". Daily Telegraph. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  8. ^ Guleyupoglu, B; Schestatsky, P; Edwards, D; Fregni, F; Bikson, M (15 October 2013). "Classification of methods in transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) and evolving strategy from historical approaches to contemporary innovations". Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 219 (2): 297–311. doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.07.016. PMC 3833074. PMID 23954780.
  9. ^ Platt, Jerome J. (2000). Cocaine Addiction: Theory, Research, and Treatment. Harvard University Press. p. 242. ISBN 9780674001787.
  10. ^ Norton, Quinn (20 March 2007). "Neuroelectric Therapy: Addiction cure or quakery?". Wired.
  11. ^ a b "Howson backs electric heroin cure". The Scotsman. 24 December 2006.
  12. ^ a b Shapiro, Harry (1988). Waiting for the Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music. Quartet Books. p. 234. ISBN 0-688-08961-5.
  13. ^ Reed, Susan (11 August 1986). "Britain's Dr. Meg Patterson Helps Jolt Boy George Out of His Heroin Habit". People. 26 (6). Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via