Nobel prize-winning surgery

No, this is not another rant about mandatory spay and neuter laws.

I'm talking lobotomy! It was once very much in vogue, not for wayward dogs, but wayward people. And the guy who invented it did in fact win the Nobel Prize for it.

For years it was the rage in the United States. (I'm sure people who opposed it were called "backward." Could any procedure performed on 40,000 to 50,000 Americans be wrong?)

Here's a video.

With that in mind, now it's time to dance!

I sometimes wish I could have a political lobotomy.

(Might make things go away.)

MORE: Considering the rigid code of sexual morality that arose in the 1930s (something fueled, I believe, by a backlash against the sexually loose 1920s), and considering the totalitarian trends during that unfortunate period, it is not surprising that lobotomy would be (and was) seen as a cure for sexual deviancy.

According to the National Review, even the respected Joe Kennedy, Sr. seems to have subjected his daughter to the procedure out of fear of sexual promiscuity:

Rosemary Kennedy, sister of the late president, was born in 1918, apparently mildly retarded. Kennedy-family pathographers have suggested that her father feared disgraceful consequences from her sex life. In 1941 she was lobotomized, which reduced her to an infant-like state. How sad that such brutal measures were touted as therapeutic; how sad that those who wished to protect her (and the family) reached for that measure.
Would it be disrespectful to call that an "honor lobotomy"?

I honestly don't know. (I try so hard to be polite that I get undone by the ironies that lurk everywhere.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

Comments welcome. Especially if there's anyone out there who has had a lobotomy, I'd love to hear about it.

Columnist Bill Kristol once advised John Kerry to get one, but there's no official word on whether Kerry followed through. (There's more than one way to sear memories.)

posted by Eric on 02.03.08 at 12:46 PM










Comments

Insterestingly enough, the procedure was banned in the USSR and Yugoslavia well before the USA started investigating it - although several states banned it. I don't know if the Federal government was worried about states rights in the period before it acted or not.

David Weisman   ·  February 3, 2008 2:05 PM

The "respected Joe Kennedy"? Respected by whom? Other rum runners?

Joe Bonforte   ·  February 4, 2008 11:37 AM

Old Joe destroyed his daughter's brain without her consent and without telling his wife.

Maybe the Kennedy Curse is some sort of karmic payback for the old man's evil.

It will always be a mystery why this miserable family of drunken, thieving, jumped-up potato diggers is considered American royalty.

Shadow Merchant   ·  February 4, 2008 11:51 AM

Old Joe destroyed his daughter's brain without her consent and without telling his wife.

Maybe the Kennedy Curse is some sort of karmic payback for the old man's evil.

It will always be a mystery why this miserable family of drunken, thieving, whoring, jumped-up potato diggers is considered American royalty.

Shadow Merchant   ·  February 4, 2008 11:51 AM

I could, unfortunately, see society thinking this was a reasonable way of "managing" undesirable behavior (disgusting as that is), presuming they didn't really grasp the details, but the idea that *doctors* thought that destroying what was left of someone's mind was ethical absolutely blows my mind.

They *knew* better.

And the practice of medicine had advanced that already knew that its history contained examples of cures being worse than the disease, e.g. "bleeding".

newscaper   ·  February 4, 2008 12:07 PM

I think I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than .....

ZZMike   ·  February 4, 2008 12:16 PM

Egas Moniz won the Nobel prize because there were no medications available to help some severely deranged people up until the 1950s. A modified form of prefrontal lobotomy was also used to treat svere Parkinson's until bettter procedures became available in the 1950s. No doubt that these procedures were overused and used inapproriately like with Kennedy's daughter, but a significant number of people were helped within the limits of medical science of the time.

Moniz made his most important contribution in the development of cerebral Angiography. He should have won the Nobel prize for that.

Best regards from a jumped up potato digging neurosurgeon.

Michael Fleming, MD   ·  February 4, 2008 12:24 PM

I'm afraid your understanding of a lobotomy seems to come from Hollywood.

Lobotomies do not destroy an individual's intellect. Most of patients scored the same on IQ and other cognitive test as they did before the surgery. Instead, lobotomies severe the emotional linkages between the frontal cortex and the rest of the brain. Lobotomy patients develop rather subtle defects of emotion. The stop caring about things so much and have trouble anticipating the consequences of actions.

Lobotomies became so widespread precisely because they didn't appear at the time to do any significant damage and for many people, such as those with intractable pain, the operation saved their lives. Without modern pharmaceuticals, people with severe disorders often died of stress within a few years.

Contrary to popular conception, I don't think lobotomies represent cruel people destroying minds out of connivence. I think lobotomies belong to that category of horrors of the past like surgery before anesthesia. It was done out of a like of choices and because they could not see the extent of the tradeoffs.

Future generations will judge some accepted contemporary practice of our time just as harshly.

Shannon Love   ·  February 4, 2008 12:25 PM

"Future generations will judge some accepted contemporary practice of our time just as harshly."

You mean like the Nobel Prize given to Al Gore, when we're sitting around freezing our asses off?

Mister Snitch!   ·  February 4, 2008 12:41 PM

"Future generations will judge some accepted contemporary practice of our time just as harshly."

You mean like the Nobel Prize given to Al Gore, when we're sitting around freezing our asses off?

Mister Snitch!   ·  February 4, 2008 12:41 PM

After the Lobo (as popularized by Keysey) fell out of Cukoo's-Nest favor came electro-shock - did anybody win a Nobel for that? They were pretty busy with it at Agnews.
I'm sure honor-lobotomies occur among the Left with good frequency for those who don't join the Cadre.

DirtCrashr   ·  February 4, 2008 12:42 PM

Leave us not forget old Joe's infatuation with the 3rd Reich.

The subject of karmic payback and the Kennedys is best treated by Richard Condon's Winter Kills. [Book seems to be OP, but there is a good movie version starring Jeff Bridges and John Huston]

DirtCrashr: ECT is still used for the treatment of depressions that do not respond to drugs. It saves some lives.

Fat Man   ·  February 4, 2008 1:11 PM

Dr Michael, you are so right, the partial pre-frontal lobotomy was done on my wife in 1987 after many Drs. and ten years. This is the only thing that helped her (no, it did not cure her) and at that time there were several that I know of who were able to function and hold a job. There is much mis-understanding about this

bigfoot   ·  February 4, 2008 1:13 PM

Side note only: what's wrong with potato-digging? I'm no great fan of the Kennedys, but I am shanty Irish. And damn proud of it. Dagnabbit.

Jamie   ·  February 4, 2008 2:35 PM

I too would like to add my voice to the chorus. While there have been abuses of the procedure, it also enabled some people to lead independent productive lives who otherwise would have been dependant and unproductive. I too have first hand knowledge of a young, intelligent man who could not function in the world or hold down a job until he had a partial pre-frontal lobotomy. Afterwards, he was able to run his own business and marry. These accomplishments gave him happiness. I call that success.

starling   ·  February 4, 2008 3:37 PM

Today they lobotomize using drugs........

bluhawkk   ·  February 4, 2008 3:37 PM

We do not know what light is. How does it move from this digital computer screen to my eyes as I type this? We don't know what matter is, except that it contains both inertia and gravity, which according to a certain non-lobotomized and yet brain-in-a-jar Jewish guy, it's all about the nature of space, which doesn't exist. The brain? Lobotomy? There are people with entirely missing brains (except the part that is stuffed half-way down our jaw in the back) who seem "normal" to normal people. Then there is the fact that if you cut the Left from the Right brain, just like in politics, if you show a card to the Left side (via the Right eye since the optic nerve crosses over) of the brain, ordering it to take a drink of water, then ask the OTHER side of the brain to explain "why you just took a drink of water" it will say because it was thirsty. This is almost religious, or at least holographic, which may be the same thing, but in the great scheme of things, a few botched (bad outcome) CRUDE BRAIN SURGERIES a scandal does not make. Especially if they are done on girls, to make them offer sex whenever we ask instead of start springing sprockets and gears all over the room like some sort of anti-matter castration machine, by which I mean, not to be mean, but some people are CRAZY due to one "mental cancer" like neuron sending bad signals that scatter the order in the entire brain, and scientists with microscopes, to this day, cannot find that ONE star in the hundred billion stars in the sky, er, I mean hundred billion neurons in the Frontal Lobe (the INHIBITORY part of our brain that Ritalin, ironically stimulates in order to CALM hyper-active...or male...kids) so they just wipe the whole area (just like Ritalin does), in the hope that, on average, despite a few face or boob jobs (wrong topic sorry), that overall, it did good, but at one time was over-done, either due to profit motive, or a now-covered-up plan to turn feisty feminists into Stepford Wives.

NikFromNYC   ·  February 5, 2008 3:14 AM

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