Lobotomy: A Dangerous Fad’s Lingering Effect on Mental Illness Treatment | Retro Report

Lobotomy: A Dangerous Fad’s Lingering Effect on Mental Illness Treatment | Retro Report

I will perform transorbital lobotomy on ten patients within an hour. In the 1930’s, a new brain surgery like the one portrayed here in the movie Frances, was brought to the United States: the lobotomy. Only a little more dangerous than operating to
remove an infected tooth. It was performed on mentally ill patients
all over the country, hailed by the media as a miracle cure. Life magazine, The New York Times, Time magazine. They loved it. Lobotomy was felt to be mainstream
science. It wins the Nobel Prize. But more than 40,000 surgeries later, the brutal
truth about lobotomy would come to light. They were basically going in
and mushing around brain tissue. And, unfortunately in many cases
leaving patients worse off. Seven decades later,
a look back at the lobotomy story shows how far our understanding of the brain has come and how far we still have to go. In the early decades of the 20th century, people struggling with mental illness had few options. Families were at their wits end, didn’t know what to do with people who had lots of mental symptoms. Institutions were very overcrowded. And the treatments were very, very difficult. Like hydrotherapy,
where people would be immersed in water. Insulin therapy, where the doctors would make the patient’s blood sugars go down to zero, and they would have seizures. In 1936, a new surgical technique called lobotomy began to be used. The experimental procedure, which partially severed the frontal lobes from deeper parts of the brain, was said to calm
and even cure those struggling with mental illness. Dr. Walter Freeman and Dr. James Watts, who was a neurosurgeon, were claiming that they had great success, that they were
restoring a good life to people who had been suffering. And they had become famous. One of Freeman’s many gifts, skills,
was cultivating the media. And they reciprocated with a lot of very favorable coverage. “Miracle cure to the brain.”
“Cutting the brain cures the soul.” The media was all over it. In 1941, Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch
of that prominent political family, read about the surgery and contacted Freeman and watts about his eldest daughter, Rosemary. Rosemary was slower to walk and talk.
As she grew, it became more and more obvious that Rosemary could not really move beyond, say, a third or fourth grade educational level. Being at the table, she wasn’t up to the complicated
conversation we had or the political discussions. In her early 20s, her mental health issues
were really becoming a problem. The tragedy is many other doctors at the time recommended against this procedure. They agreed that it was too experimental. But at the age of 23, Rosemary Kennedy was lobotomized. The surgery did not go well. They cut too deeply into the brain fibers
and Rosemary became disabled. She did eventually
regain her ability to walk and talk, but she lost a lot of what was in her personality. It should have been a terrible setback for lobotomy.
It wasn’t. With Rosemary Kennedy’s
failed surgery hidden from the public, Freeman would ultimately break with his surgical partner and take the procedure even further. The simpler approach to the frontal lobe through the roof of the orbit. Inspired by an icepick from his kitchen drawer, Freeman would use a surgical pick to enter the brain
through the patient’s eye socket. He claimed that this could be done by anyone, anywhere, in a matter of minutes. And to prove it, he took his new procedure on the road. These things that were being done were nothing like what we might think of as modern evaluation of treatments,
like a randomized control trial. These were just patients who were sick with
mental illness who got a lobotomy. And it would be used for a whole host of ailments. Hallucinations, obsessive behaviors,
feelings of depression, and suicide Soldiers returning from the theater
of war with anxiety and behavioral problems. People suffering for what was then called
intractable pain. Arguably, one of those patients
was Anna Ruth Channels. Channels had suffered from severe headaches for several years, and Dr. Freeman was sure that a lobotomy was the cure. Carol Duncanson is Anna Ruth’s daughter. Walter Freeman promised she would just be happy. Everything would be fine. And who wouldn’t
go rah-rah for that when you’re hurting so badly? Dr. Freeman lobotomized
Anna Ruth when Carol was three months old. And in a cruel twistof fate, her headaches were gone, but so was almost everything else. When they brought her home, she did not know how to do the activities of daily living, even the most basic things like toileting and bathing.
My aunt taught her, from the very beginning. She wasn’t the mother that I would ever describe as being motherly. Carol says because her mother was unable to care for her, that she and her sister would spend part of their childhood living
in a series of foster homes. I’m told that Dr. Freeman went to West Virginia and interviewed my mother after the lobotomy. And that he’d consider her outcome excellent. That’s probably the most insulting thing I’ve ever heard. In the mid 1950’s, treatment for the mentally ill would begin to change dramatically as antipsychotic drugs came on the market. They weren’t perfect. They had a lot of
side effects. But they worked for a lot of people, which left lobotomy in an interesting place. I mean, why would I burrow into someone’s brain
if I don’t have to? But, some still
felt that lobotomies were indicated. One of those people was Walter Freeman. There was a number of children who received lobotomies at Freeman’s hands. He recommended a lobotomy for a young boy who was having trouble in his family, getting along with his stepmother. In 1967, Freeman would be forced to stop performing lobotomies when one of his patients died while having her third operation. In all, he had done more than
3,500 surgeries in three decades. He died in 1972, but his radical procedure had taken hold in popular culture. There’s only one little operation they perform here.
It’s on the brain. It’s called a lobotomy. I think the way culture has dealt with lobotomy might be in sort of a simplistic way, evil doctors experimenting on patients and creating all this havoc and disruption. A great legacy of lobotomy would be to understand why lobotomy was so exciting at the time. People were enormously upset about the mental illness that they saw that they couldn’t treat otherwise. They were excited about the possibilities of new technology. I think we can see how many
of those factors are still in play today. While people struggling with mental illness
now have more choices, from new medicines to the more unconventional, like the use of LSD for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for some, the treatments still don’t work.
But with the BRAIN Initiative, scientists are hoping that advancing technology will help them understand the brain in ways once thought unimaginable. President Obama unveiled a 100-million-dollar initiative today that seeks to map the brain in unprecedented detail. We probably know about one percent of what
the brain is doing. The brain is incredibly complex. It has a hundred billion neurons, untold trillions of connections. So particularly when it has to do with higher cognitive functions like feelings and thinking and emotion, we really do not have a very good understanding of that. At Massachusetts General Hospital, doctors are using a surgical technique called Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS for short, on patients with untreatable psychiatric disorders, including a severe form of OCD. What do you feel? A seven. A seven, okay, can you put an adjective to it? It’s a happiness. While surgery is not without risks,
doctors say DBS is largely reversible. A pacemaker-like device is implanted with wires that send electronic pulses into targeted areas of the brain. It has successfully controlled tremors
in Parkinson’s patients, and has been tested on patients
with untreatable depression. When I first met Liss, her affect, or the way her face looked, was just very blank, very sad, even had trouble making eye contact. Liss Murphy’s anxiety and depression had
become so debilitating that one day, she just got up and left her job. Walked out, and I never went back to the office.
And just went off the grid totally. I was just in complete shutdown. In 2006, Murphy became one of the first patients to undergo Deep Brain Stimulation surgery for depression. The surgery lasted 8 hours.
Once the electrode was implanted and turned on, the doctors delivered a small amount of
electrical stimulation. Then finally, I felt something and,
it was – it was remarkable, actually. Within two to three months,
I started walking my dog again. Being able to get out of bed in the morning and getting showered and dressed, and they sound like small things, but I didn’t do those things very well. Our goal is to make very sick patients better. So, if we have a safe therapy that takes someone that is so depressed that they can never leave the house, and give them their life back,
how can you say no to that? While Liss Murphy was helped, some other results for depression have been less promising. Doctors are now in the early stages of experimenting with a new more advanced device that responds to each patient’s mood. We realize we’re on the cutting edge of these treatments for psychiatric illness and because of that, we’re extremely careful.
There is a dark history of psychiatric neurosurgery. It’s now been almost a century ago,
but it’s still overhangs our field, but I really want to emphasize how far we’ve come. Our challenge, I think, as a medical community is to not get over involved in the fact that it’s psychosurgery. Let’s try to evaluate it scientifically as best we can.

100 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I think the reason people don’t look back on lobotomy as “well at the time it was high end science” or anything is because it wasn’t done to help the patients feel better, it was done to make “unsavoury” (gay people, women, people of colour, mentally ill, physically disabled) people easier to deal with. It was done against people’s will and without people’s knowledge, and the good results they reported were complacency and submission. The people who underwent these surgeries obviously were not better off, they couldn’t take care of themselves they lacked the mental capacity to hold certain conversations, this was done solely for people to have more power over those who cannot defend themselves

  2. um actually rosemary was a genius. she and her father created their own language. she was known as the smartest kennedy child with the most potential. she was given a lobotomy after her father died because her mother was rumored to have been jealous of their relationship.

  3. I'm slightly dispionted that there was mention of the fact that a lot of people with epilepsy were also have lobotomy

  4. 0:36 is soooo sad! You cab almost hear her hear curdling scream as she’s getting the lobotomy. In the video down below. Just fair WARNING VERY GRAPHIC …..

  5. God damn. People just wanted their loved ones back and they got this. What kind of punishment could even be enough for those "doctors"

  6. That is the result when u totally freak out, cus u refuse to take your medicines!!! Now days they make shock therapy to the worst cases with no permission ,cus all is gone too far ,cus fault of the patient. So people before to complain of medicines and to refuse to drink it dont forget that someday they will rape u ,beat u ,abuse u anyhow and will live in miserable conditions ,cus u didnt take your life in hands ,but will be tok latw to realise it even. This is the mental institutions ,many can be good ,but many are nightmears

  7. As a child, I was told this would happen to me. I am glad I am not back in the past. I have a form of LD (learning disabled) and people still think just because I don't think like others.

  8. God. Adding on to the most dumbest times in human history ??‍♀️
    Now we have to worry about those deadly anti-vaxers

  9. This is a really good documentary! This is the first video of yours that I've watched, and I've subscribed. It looks, and sounds, like a well-financed tv documentary, not a cheap YouTube one. Did you just make it for YouTube, or did it appear on tv, as well? I don't know why you only have 26,000 followers, because you deserve more.

  10. I wish I could have gotten a lobotomy. Anything is better than constant debilitating migraines insufferable depression and constant suicidal ideation anything is better than the medications the side effects the loneliness and the constant sexual craving that is never satisfied

  11. Why not just correct what's causing the depression by giving them B12? Most cases of depression, bi polar and other metal illness are caused by a low B12. The medical term is pernicious anemia and google this and you'll see that a low B12 can cause depression, hallucinations, insomnia and a host of other things. Have a methylmalonic acid test, which is the best test to determine a low B12. If your B12 shows normal in the blood, it can still be low at the tissue level and it causes methylmalonic acid to rise, which dissolves the myelin sheaths off of your nerves. It also causes ammonia levels to rise, and this causes depression, psychosis, memory loss, insomnia, extreme thirst, incontinence, etc. Instead of doing surgery on the brain and implanting all this crap, doctors need to find out what's causing the mental illness. They're not trained in nutritional or vitamin deficiencies as the cause of mental illness, when the brain operates on vitamins and minerals.

  12. I am so glad to live in this day and age. It’s not perfect but damn at least I have a shot at getting better. I suffer from frequent migraines and other unpleasant headaches, as well as insomnia, anxiety, and some form of highly functioning depression. Man am I glad not to have been alive back then… phew.

  13. Sure..lets pound a needle into the brain through the eye and grind it back and forth…abracadabra..you are…cured… ¿¿!! Good grief…a moron can see this is monsterous!!

  14. All that money spent when they can be taking Kratom for pennies and feel normal again. Kratom is an amazing leaf

  15. Lobotomy was also performed on people with physical disease that was perceived to be psychosomatic. It wasn't so long ago I might have been lobotomized for my inflammatory bowel disease.

  16. "her metal health issues were becoming a problem"
    For whom? Her? Or was she just embarrassing to the Kennedy's?
    My money's on the latter

  17. this reminds me of the crazy lefties thinking socialism works and men are women etc.. and doctors going along with their delusions

  18. Did the surgery ever help anyone? Or did it leave everyone vegetables ? Was anyone ever able to have a normal life afterwards? So sad

  19. I recommend the book My Lobotomy by Howard Dully, a “patient” of this mad scientist Freeman. It s a very interesting first hand account of the procedure and his life after (with the consequences).

  20. I think lobotomy’s actually work , at the time it was a standard medical practice. I’m 82 years young and I can attest to the fact they did work. My older brother who my father thought was mentally ill took him in to get a lobotomy. He was sixteen at the time and smoking a lot of grass and doing cocaine (which was a standard over the counter medicine at the time). But anyways he went and got that lobotomy and he ended up living for another six years. But he was perfectly fine though in the six years he was still alive .

  21. Something tells me they had a heavy metal burden in the body. People were being poisoned like nobody's business back then. How sick is that Freeman? He has no soul.

  22. This is coming back in fashion again as scary as that sounds it is true. Electroshock therapy is on the rise again also.

  23. they still are not perfect 2dayz drugz thats on the market they all have scary side effects just listen to the commercialz for the drugs its plum awful

  24. 4 phux ache! I've never been to medical school, and common sense tells me that if you go severing connections within a brain to stop dysfinction, you're bound to disrupt function too. If someone has heart disease, would you try to cure it by removing the patient's heart? You know, removing a patient's heart can have some very serious side effects.

  25. absolutely no1 should mess with another person's brain no1 this just makes me very very angry all theze so called medical doctorz the Lord rebuke thee and yes i 4give you .

  26. It's easy to point fingers and scrutinise the science of the past, but when it comes to the brain we still don't even know enough about it. This Dr Freeman sold it like a dream and people bought it, but that's because that was the only breakthrough they found to helping with making people normal at that time.

  27. The movie about would be Hollywood starlet Frances Farmer with Jessica Lange is pretty heartbreaking in this regard. It was a hard time to be an “unconventional woman.”

  28. I have autism. This presents itself in multiple anxiety disorders, a mood disorder, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder which also includes dermatillomania. If I was born any time before let’s say 1980, I would have either been institutionalized or had one of these procedures.

    I’ve been so drugged by hospital staffs that all I could do was lay in bed and cry. I was seen as explosive, which was a side effect of a medication I was on, so instead of helping me when I was hospitalized for the third time, they put me on Haldol.

    Haldol lasts in your body for a long time, somewhere between 14 hours and 36 hours. I was being given it every few hours. I would sleep through the night, get a pill in the late morning and go back to my room to sleep. When I woke up, I’d eat my dinner, visit with my mother and shower. Then they’d give me more haldol. I slept and would be woken up for more. I’d wake up the next morning, at about noonish.

    I could not imagine being alive at the same time as Rosemary Kennedy. I would probably have been mutilated as well. And if I was born around the same time as my parents, the late 60s/early 70s, it would have been beaten out of me. Even if I was born any time before 2001, I would have probably just been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder because that’s how my autism appears. A lot of women with autism get misdiagnosed.

  29. Anyone with a simple idea of what causes most of these illnesses would know how stupid this idea was. It’s coming from a friggin’ doctor!

  30. His statement. One day there is a problem and we can so easily fix it the next moment. Who wouldn't jump at that? Two doctors, two different time periods, same statement.

  31. #bringbacklobotomy Lobotomy cured mental illness. Now the only cure for mental illness is ECT, Amyglotomy and medication.

  32. Were there successful lobotomies? Not fake successful. Obviously much lying went on.
    This must have been great for the military if they didn't want soldiers to speak of what they had done or seen.

  33. I think the final breaking point was when Freeman started trying to market "Do It Yourself Ice Pick Lobotomy" kits.

  34. One of my relatives refused to ever be professionally diagnosed as bipolar due to knowing people subjected to the lobotomy for the condition. Never was properly medicated, and it ruined a marriage and relationships with children. Sad that barbaric doctors kept people from getting mental illness treatment for decades afterwards

  35. Interesting way to conclude the video. It made me feel uncomfortable. I know they say they are on the cutting edge but the lobotomy people said that too, which is exactly the point they are trying to make. Talk is cheap. Show us the proof on this psycho surgery stuff and then I will believe it’s not hurting people.

  36. Oh my god this is making me feel sick. The thought of a goddamn pick being rammed into your eye socket and puncturing your skull? ???

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