General

Introduction to the topic of Hubris Syndrome:

In 2002 Lord Owen gave a lecture to the Annual Meeting of the Association of British Neurologists and the British Neuropsychiatry Association on “The effect of serious illness on Heads of State or Government”.  This was later published as an Occasional Paper in the QJM (Q J Med 2003; 96:325-336) entitled “Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State.  In February 2005, as Chancellor of Liverpool University, Lord Owen delivered the Lord Henry Cohen History of Medicine Lecture on “The effect of Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s illness on his decision-making during the Suez Crisis”. This too was subsequently published as an Occasional Paper in the QJM (Q J Med 2005 98(6): 387-402). Lord Owen as a neurologist and then a politician has always had a keen interest in the inter-relationship of politics and medicine. He began studying and writing more about illness in heads of government, not only physical and depressive illness but what he perceived as a change in personality as a result of holding high office, or what Bertrand Russell called ‘intoxication of power’ and which Lord Owen has labeled ‘hubris syndrome’.

In November 2006 an article on “Hubris and Nemesis in Heads of Government” was published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (J R Soc Med 2006, 99:548-551). A small paperback called Hubris Syndrome was published in 2007 followed by a much longer book In Sickness and In Power in 2008 which has since been updated and republished in 2016.   Lord Owen has given lectures to the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians, the Maudsley Grand Round, the Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting and the Association of British Neurologists covering different aspects from these two books, the texts of which are all available in this section of the website.  An article based on the Samuel Gee Lecture given to the Royal College of Physicians was published in Clinical Medicine in August 2008. A Personal View column “Let us see the medical records of future world leaders” also appeared in the BMJ in November 2008 (BMJ2008;337:a2486).  In 2009 Lord Owen co-authored a paper for BRAIN on “Hubris syndrome: An acquired personality disorder?  A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years”. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/132/5/1396.full

The table in this article outlines the proposed criteria for Hubris Syndrome and their correspondence to features of Cluster B personality disorders in DSM-IV.

An independent assessment of Lord Owen’s description of hubris syndrome was written by Professor Gerald Russell, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry in The Psychiatrist in 2011.  ThePsychiatrist

In conclusion Professor Russell wrote “Owen has made important contributions to the psychiatry of politicians and others in positions of power, which should be warmly welcomed. The description of the hubris syndrome may require further refinement before entry into the recognised psychiatric classifications.”

In Sickness and In Power has been published in the UK, America, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Spain, Portugal and a number of other countries. It has been widely and well reviewed.

It is clear from this high level of activity, and the numerous other medical and literary meetings that have been addressed by Lord Owen that both books have aroused considerable interest, not only in political circles but more specifically in the medical profession. It looks as if the debate on hubris syndrome will continue for some time to come.

With this in mind in 2011 Lord Owen was instrumental in establishing a charitable trust, the Daedalus Trust (www.daedalustrust.com) with the aim of promoting research into personality changes associated with the exercise of power amongst leaders in all walks of life. The name for the Trust was chosen because of Daedalus’s combination of risk taking tempered by wisdom.  The Trust aims to raise awareness of this important leadership and governance issue and to support research that studies both the positive and the negative consequences of behavioral risk management while giving precedence to neither.  It has held a number of workshops and annual conferences and published books. For more information on the Trust please go to its website: www.daedalustrust.com

More articles and interviews by Lord Owen addressing the subject of hubris syndrome can be found in the following section of the website.  Earlier copies of lectures can be requested by contacting Lord Owen’s office.

 

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“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system

Statement issued by the Rt Hon Lord Owen following Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he would ‘remove’ private provision within the NHS as part of plans to renationalise the health service.

“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party today unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system: one which is unrecognisable from that which was introduced in 1948 and which still exists in the rest of the UK.

“Surely now the whole Labour movement can combine together, left, right and centre to make this official party policy at this year’s autumn conference.”

Background:

“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement means that the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 under these proposals are, in effect, rejected and will be replaced. This surely must end all Labour’s troubled equivocation over a marketised NHS and provide a political route on which party members and supporters can campaign together. Already in Scotland this is in effect government policy.

“The Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill has been campaigning on a cross party basis for this outcome through successive Private Member’s Bills in both the Lords and the Commons ever since I presented the first National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill [HL] in January 2013.

“It is a triumph for learning together, with cross party grassroots organisations working closely with health and legal professionals with persistence and dedication.”

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We continuously underestimate the underlying passion and commitment of the powerful people who run Europe and steer it towards a United States of Europe.

Speech to the Bruges Group, Monday 13 June 2016.

Read the full text here: BrugesGroup13.6.16

Watch the video of the speech and Q+A here: BrugesGroupVideo

Extract: …how is it that Margaret Thatcher, the most powerful Prime Minister we have had since we joined the Common Market in 1973, totally failed to slow down, let alone halt, the continued integration of the EU despite being, on the face of it, the most hostile Prime Minister ever towards the end result of integration – a United States of Europe.

… The answer – and it has direct relevance to why we should leave on 23 June – is that as a nation of pragmatists or shopkeepers, call it what you will, we continuously underestimate and simply will not address the underlying passion and commitment of the powerful people who on a day-to-day basis run Europe and steer it towards that end result, a United States of Europe.

We also ignore how effectively the Brussels believers turn the mind frame of the diplomats, civil servants and experts from the Member States to their ‘idea of Europe’. Part idealistic, part realistic they constantly reiterate the idea that a nation state is rather old-fashioned in a complex world. That supranationalism enshrined in Treaties, which cannot be amended, is the only way forward. That democracy is untidy, inefficient and needs to be managed and tempered by expertise. They have both a design, a method and tenacity.

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Hubris syndrome: An acquired personality disorder? A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years

Download Full Paper here: includes tables/footnotes/references.

Brain Advance Access published February 12, 2009

David Owen (House of Lords, London, UK) and Jonathan Davidson (Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, USA)

‘The history of madness is the history of power. Because it imagines power, madness is both impotence and omnipotence. It requires power to control it. Threatening the normal structures of authority, insanity is engaged in an endless dialogue—a monomaniacal monologue sometimes— about power’.

Roy Porter: A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987 p. 39

Introduction

Charisma, charm, the ability to inspire, persuasiveness, breadth of vision, willingness to take risks, grandiose aspirations and bold self-confidence—these qualities are often associated with successful leadership. Yet there is another side to this profile, for these very same qualities can be marked by impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate. This can result in disastrous leadership and cause damage on a large scale. The attendant loss of capacity to make rational decisions is perceived by the general public to be more than ‘just making a mistake’. While they may use discarded medical or colloquial terms, such as ‘madness’ or ‘he’s lost it’, to describe such behaviour, they instinctively sense a change of behaviour although their words do not adequately capture its essence. read more…..

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