Previously published in Examiner
Despite the warnings of the pioneer of neurosurgery, Antonio Egas Moniz to reserve lobotomies for the most severely disturbed, Freeman campaigned for their widespread in the United States in the 1940’s. There were about 50,000 lobotomies performed worldwide.
Rather than performing lobotomies to cure mental health issues, they were used for control, and convenience. They were also used on everyone from patients suffering from schizophrenia to other mental disorders.
Freeman’s Icepick surgery could be performed in 10 minutes. He would simply line up his patients and systematically perform one lobotomy after another. The procedure was gruesome and experimental. There was no scientific prove that lobotomies helped patients at all.
Over 18,000 lobotomies were performed on US mental patients. In Japan most of the lobotomies were performed on children who had behavior problems or simply had problems in school. Political dissidents around the world were silenced by lobotomies.
People who just did not conform to social mores were also silenced. Families who wanted to get rid of other family members could have them committed to a mental institute where they would no doubt undergo a lobotomy. The abuse was rampant in the USA and elsewhere, many a rich person fell victim to these practices so that their families could get a hold of their estates.
The effects of lobotomies were devastating. The original use to relief extreme behavior and emotional symptoms were forgotten. Lobotomies created irreversible brain damage,often rendering the patient in a vegetative state. The targeted area, the neocortex is also the center for intellectual functioning. Once the operation was performed patients not only lacked any emotion (flat affect), they also lost most or all of their cognitive abilities (thinking and understanding of the world). They became like robots with no intellect and basically no personalities at all.
One nurse who worked with a patient who had a lobotomy in the 1940’s remarked, “You look in her eyes and you see there is no one there.”
In the USA, criminals were often targeted for lobotomies. The feeling at the time was that criminal behavior was lodged in certain parts of the brain. Even though the practice of performing lobotomies ended with the new drug therapy to control psychic symptoms, lobotomies continued to be performed on criminals well into the 1960’s.
Montrealers have a wonderful world renown neurological hospital: The Montreal Neurological Institute.