tw:-lobotomy

“My oldest sister was a runaway as a teen and my parents caught her smoking pot. They didn’t know what to do with her and in 1970, the option for them was to put her away in a mental hospital where the people working there assured them that she needed to remain. Over the years there, my sister received so much electroshock therapy that she lost all memory of her childhood or any experiences she ever had with us.”

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The Horrendous History of the Lobotomy

Dr. Egas Moniz and Dr. Freemen are usually credited with inventing the lobotomy in the 1930s, though in truth their work was based on many other people’s research going back to the mid-19th century. In 1949, Moniz actually won the Nobel Prize for inventing lobotomy, and the operation peaked in popularity around the same time.

Freeman apparently found Moniz’s techniques a bit stodgy, and he began experimenting with an outpatient procedure, where he would drive an icepick into his patients’ brains near the top of their eye sockets. Once the pick was inside the brain, he would literally wiggle it around, cutting through the white and gray matter. It was not a precision surgery. Using a hammer and his pick, he boasted that he could do a lobotomy in 10 minutes and didn’t even need anaesthesia.

Much like electroshock treatment, the theory behind it is for most of the part quite solid. The problem comes from trying to cut specific ‘problem’ connections in the brain is like trying to destroy a needle in a haystack with a bazooka. Despite this, most early 20th Century lobotomists claimed around a 35% success rate. Apathy was often seen as a 'cured’ result for patients who may have been incredibly violent and unruly. A great majority of people became catatonic, lethargic, and child like with no social skills left. They basically became like zombies.

Alice at 7 years of age

The story of Alice is actually sad. Remember that the great fairy tales are from another era, the reality was different and extremely conservative values. So, having a schizophrenic daughter was considered an aberration, a crime. Alice’s parents decided to leave her in a sanatorium, and it remained for the most part, doped. When he was not under the influence of drugs, was raped by the officials. The girl was only 11.

Each of the characters and objects of history, has to do with a desire or experience Alice.

The hole through which she enters Wonderland, is actually a window of his room, where he was imprisoned for life, why she wanted to go out and see the world around them.

The White Rabbit, for it represented the time. That time she wished to pass soon, so one day she could get out of that place. The time she saw pass so fast, yet so slow …

The Mad Hatter was another inmate, his best friend. Someone who left his life in hospital less bitter, who created several theories of how life would be out there. The boy, in fact, suffered from Bipolar Syndrome, so the personality of the Hatter in history, showed sometimes joyful, sometimes depressed, sometimes calm, sometimes angry.

The Hare, the Hatter companion, was the girl who shared a room with him. She suffered from severe depression, and every time that Alice had contact with her, found her in a state of terror and paranoia.

The Cheshire Cat: One of the nurses, whom Alice confided, but eventually trick her and her violent. The smiling cat, one that is so marked, it was actually the smile obscure his assailant opened every time you abused, and thrown into a left hand corner of your accommodation, defeated, sad and dazed.

The Queen of Hearts: the director of the sanatorium. An evil woman and despicable, he did not feel even an ounce of compassion for the sick who were under his care. Was in favor of shock therapy and lobotomies, and repeatedly demanded that the officials beat up, arrest sedassem in cages and the sick behavior that had not pleased him.

The White Queen: his mother, a noblewoman and tender, the skin that has suffered the prejudice of having a sick child, having to leave the girl in a sanatorium, never to see her again. The vague memories that Alice had, moments was with her mother, and her reason to think that the world outside the walls of the hospital was a better place, was to know that her mother was there, somewhere, to look after him.

Suits: hospital nurses, just following orders the whole day.

The Blue Caterpillar: her therapist, one that gave him the answers, which I explained to him what happened and with whom she conversed.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Siamese twins orphans, who were in the hospital. While not possessing any mental problem that would justify his internment, which had the appearance was frightening, so were prisoners.

The King of Hearts: the psychiatrist hospital. Someone with an inferiority complex, it was unable to oppose the orders of the director.

The bottles “Eat Me” and “Drink Me”: drugs that gave him. Because they are extremely strong, repeatedly Alice had different sensations and hallucinations, as well as if it had shrunk or increased in size.

All of this was created by the girl like a parallel world. A less painful reality that she lived. She could not stand that place and everything that went with it in there, then decided to use his childish imagination to ease the pain and suffering. The older sister Alice, is actually a hospital nurse, who was a little too attached. The nurse kept a diary and wrote down all the stories in it that Alice created in your mind. Every day the nurse went to the girl’s room and heard his outbursts and the adventures created in his mind. While noting a word.

Unfortunately, Alice performs an escape attempt. She did not succeed, and ultimately owned by employees. The director angry, tell the girl espanquem and apply electroshock therapy, so that never again repeat itself. After the punishment, Alice becomes aggressive and violent, to the point the director decides that the only way out for her, would lobotomy.

Alice lived long in a state of “coma”. She never lived, smiled nor spoke. Because of this, his body was devastatingly abused so much that it ended up having internal bleeding due to violence used in an act of rape, and he died.

The nurse who wrote their stories in a diary eventually move away from the sanatorium, and Alice was immortalized as the dreamy girl who lived incredible adventures in Wonderland.

Dr. Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy at Western State Hospital, Steilacoom WA (July 7, 1949)


When I was 7, I followed my two older boy cousins as they broke into the dilapidated remains of this asylum. They thought it was super hilarious to ditch me in there. It was probably the single most terrifying incident of my childhood… Buildings hold on to the emotional experiences of their tenants.

FYI: Do Lobotomies Work?

Surprisingly, yes.

The modern lobotomy originated in the 1930s, when doctors realized that by severing fiber tracts connected to the frontal lobe, they could help patients overcome certain psychiatric problems, such as intractable depression and anxiety. Over the next two decades, the procedure would become simple and popular, completed by poking a sharpened tool above the eyeball. According to one study, about two thirds of patients showed improvement after surgery.

Unfortunately, not all lobotomy practition-ers were responsible, and the technique left some patients with severe side effects, including seizures, lethargy, changes in personality, and incontinence. In response, doctors refined their techniques. They replaced the lobotomy with more specialized approaches: the cingulotomy, the anterior capsulotomy, and the subcaudate tractotomy. Studies of these procedures found evidence of benefit for at least one fourth of patients suffering from problems such as OCD and depression.

Even with the risk of side effects, those in the field still say the procedures were by and large successful. “I feel that the principle behind ablative surgery was somewhat exonerated by the research findings, which showed that it worked for very specific indications,” says Konstantin Slavin, president of the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, and professor at the Uni­versity of Illinois at Chicago.

By the 1980s, lobotomies had fallen out of fashion. “In general, the entire functional neurosurgery field moved away from destruction—from ablative surgery,” Slavin says. A then-new technique called deep-brain stimulation made ablative surgery obsolete. In the procedure, a surgeon drills holes in the head and inserts electrodes into the neural tissue. When current passes through the leads, they activate or inactivate patches of the brain. “The attractive part is that we don’t destroy the tissue,” Slavin says. Doctors can also adjust treatment if a patient suffers side effects. They can turn the current down or suspend it altogether—so as to “give the brain a holiday,” as Slavin calls it.

Most deep-brain stimulation is now used to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease. The surgical treatment of patients with OCD is FDA-approved but reserved only for extreme cases. Slavin and his colleagues have been examining broader uses in an ongoing study. “Within the next five years, we hope we’ll have a definitive answer of whether or not it works.”

What will medicine consider unethical in 100 years?

Let’s take a look at lobotomies, operations in which doctors break connections in patients’ brains to treat conditions such as depression and schizophrenia. At the height of lobotomy practice in the 1940s, prior to advancements in mental health care, this ice-pick-through-the-eye-socket procedure appeared to be sound. The treatment even snagged a Nobel Prize in 1949 [source: Jansson]. 

Today, we might be shocked that these things were considered OK. But in life, there are humans behind science, and what these people consider “right” and “wrong” can change. That’s the trick with ethics, the study of right and wrong. Accepted beliefs evolve. So how does ethics work in medicine, and how might it be different a century from now?

Read on…