Shocking facts about lobotomy

Hyperaxion Mar 3, 2020

A few decades ago, thousands of people were lobotomized and had their lives destroyed because of conditions that are now controlled with drugs, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, this technique is now completely discredited.

What is lobotomy?

Lobotomy means the removal of a piece of the brain, usually the prefrontal lobe.
Dr. Walter Freeman, left, and Dr. James W. Watts study an X ray before a psychosurgical operation. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

Lobotomy means the removal of a piece of the brain, usually the prefrontal lobe, which is the area of the brain where the most complex mental and cognitive processes occur.

Until a few decades ago, it was a practice recommended by many psychiatrists. In addition to the whole procedure being performed without any prior examination and surgical precision, several other bizarre practices were common.

The use of the ice pick

A transorbital lobotomy as popularized by Walter Freeman
A transorbital lobotomy as popularized by Walter Freeman. (Credit: neuwritesd).

Initially, lobotomies were performed with the help of ice picks! With the pick, the doctor drilled behind the patient’s eye. As soon as the tip of the object reached the brain, the doctor rotated it and removed a piece of brain tissue.

And it gets worse: the procedure was usually performed without anesthesia.

The creator of lobotomy won a Nobel Prize

Egas Moniz. He won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Medicine for studies related to lobotomy.
Egas Moniz. He won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Medicine for studies related to lobotomy.

Today, lobotomy is seen as a failure of modern psychiatry, but it was once a highly respected procedure.

It was developed by Egas Moniz, a Portuguese doctor, who said that schizophrenic patients were more controllable after the procedure. Some time later, Moniz won a Nobel Prize for discovering the therapeutic value of the procedure in patients with psychiatric disorders.

Read more: Antisocials have a different brain structure

Egas Moniz advocated the use of the procedure only in severe cases, however, this type of surgery has been performed numerous times in many countries such as the United States and Japan.

The procedure causes several side effects

Patient before and 11 days after Lobotomy.
Patient before and 11 days after Lobotomy.

In many cases, lobotomy would either turn patients into vegetables or simply make them more docile, passive and easier to control – often less intelligent.

Many doctors saw this as “progress” because they did not know other ways to treat patients with mental illness.

The fact that the patient lost the ability to move and speak, had constant seizures or any other brain damage, was considered only a negative side effect of the treatment.

The use of alcohol injections

In the first lobotomies performed on humans, alcohol injections were used to kill brain tissues.

Patient authorization was not required

Currently, all medical procedures are only legally performed after authorization from the patient or a family member, but a few years ago this was not the case.

Thousands of lobotomies were performed against patients’ wishes and without any form of prior authorization. Apparently, it was cool to stick sharp objects in people’s heads.

No minimum age requirement

It was performed even on children. If a child was rebellious or did not like going to school, this was seen as a mental problem and treated with lobotomy.

One of the famous cases was Howard Dully, who at the age of 12, was lobotomized by Dr. Walter Freeman. Dully managed to survive the operation, and years later he wrote the book My Lobotomy.

Soldiers were lobotomized

After World War II, many soldiers returned to their homes with psychological trauma.

The Wall Street Journal recently found that about 2,000 soldiers received lobotomies – many against their will. Many of them received this treatment to “solve” problems such as depression and other symptoms that were likely to be caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lobotomy is still practiced, but in a very different way

Although its use has been drastically reduced after the 1950s, some psychiatrists are again adhering to the use of lobotomies. However, contrary to how it was done before, today the operation is much safer.

Read more: Robot teaches math and social skills to children with autism

According to a 2005 study published in the Brain Research Reviews, the surgery is currently done with more precision and targets only the part of brain tissue that causes problematic symptoms.

One of these brain surgeries is known as cingulotomy, used to treat people with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments