Tag Archives | Lobotomy

The U.S. Goverment Lobotomized Thousands Of World War II Soldiers With PTSD

margraten-cemeteryThe Wall Street Journal on a forced frontal lobotomy as a grim cure for the horrors of war:

The orderlies at the veterans hospital pinned Roman Tritz, a World War II bomber pilot, to the floor, he recalls. He fought so hard that eventually they gave up. But the orderlies came for him again on Wednesday, July 1, 1953, a few weeks before his 30th birthday. This time, the doctors got their way.

The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals.

The VA’s practice sometimes brought veterans relief from their inner demons.

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Walter Freeman: The Lobotomist

Walter Freeman is a name infamous among mental health advocacy circles. The psychiatrist was the innovator of the transorbital lobotomy, and became a staunch advocate for its use in “treating” the mentally ill. The transorbital lobotomy is a brutal procedure in which a thin metal pick is punched through a patient’s orbital cavity and into the brain’s frontal lobe. Once inserted, the physician then manipulates the tool to sever a portion of the brain. Patients, obviously, were never the same. Most experienced difficulty thinking, personality problems and dulled emotions. Some became crippled with uncontrollable seizures. A few died from the procedure.

Freeman, undeterred, toured the United States in a van dubbed the “lobotomobile”, stopping to train surgeons at state hospitals. Thus, lobotomies were inflicted upon the nation’s most vulnerable: troubled children and adults, the indigent and disabled.

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The Strange, Sad History Of The Lobotomy

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Orbitoclast, used in transorbital lobotomy. Photo: John Kloepper, Central States Hospital, Milledgeville, GA (CC)

A truly informative article from Annalee Newitz on io9:

If you thought that scene in Sucker Punch where the doctor gave lobotomies with an ice pick was artistic exaggeration — well, it wasn’t. That’s exactly how Walter Freeman, a popularizer of lobotomies in the 1940s, performed thousands of operations.

In the mid-twentieth century, the lobotomy was such a popular “cure” for mental illness that Freeman’s former research partner António Egas Moniz was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his role in perfecting the operation. Moniz and Freeman had a falling out after Freeman started using an ice pick-shaped instrument to perform up to 25 lobotomies a day, without anaesthesia, while reporters looked on.

Freeman’s crazy antics didn’t scare off potential patients, though: John F. Kennedy’s sister Rosemary got a lobotomy from Freeman, which left her a vegetable for the rest of her life.

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