Published in Factoidz and Examiner
By the 1950’s the tide had turned. Lobotomies did not produce the results the medical community was looking for. At best, they only helped one third of all patients, while irreversible brain damage was often the outcome. There was no proof of the therapeutic validity and now concerns were raised about the ethical issues arising from the use of this procedure.
Lobotomies had been used as a way to control people, to silence political dissents, and experiment on people who were incarcerated in prison. They were used on mental patients who had no say in the handling of their own lives. They were used on people who were different and did not conform to the standards of the day and they were used mercilessly to control behavior in children.
Even though there were inquiries going on in the United States to evaluate the effectiveness of lobotomies such as the major study called the Columbia-Greystone project in 1947, most of the time, these very studies were conducted by the same neurosurgeons who were performing the lobotomies, no doubt producing a conflict of interest and an ethical situation in and of itself.
The first country to ban lobotomies was not the United States, it was USSR. The Soviet Government found the practice to be very unethical and immoral. The practice was used less and less in the 1940’s and banned in 1951. At the 1953 World Federation for Mental Health Conference held in Vienna, Russian psychiatrists announcing the ban stated, ” a lobotomy turned, “an insane person into an idiot” and that “lobotomy is an anti-physiological method that makes the patient an intellectual invalid” (Laurence, 1953).
Back in the USA, the lobotomy fever subsided with the advent of the new anti-psychotic drug – chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Though drug therapy is a marked improvement over the barbaric and unethical practices of lobotomization, there are those who would argue that with the onset of drug therapy, the physical lobotomy was simply replaced by a chemical lobotomy.
Psycho surgery today
Anti-psychotic drugs are the therapy of choice in Canada and the United States. Some neurosurgeons still advocate for lobotomization in very severe and life threatening cases of depression, anxiety, and obsessions in such countries as: Japan, Australia, Sweden, and India.
Montrealers have a wonderful world renown neurological hospital: The Montreal Neurological Institute.