- The first lobotomy was performed in 1935.
- In 1948, Egas Moniz got the Nobel Prize for his invention.
- Today it is illegal to perform a lobotomy anywhere in the world.
A lobotomy was performed approximately 80 years ago. This procedure was performed to cut through the so-called fixed circuits, which constricted the brain and made a person to behave abnormally. It was a technique used to cure psychiatric illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and compulsive disorders. It was considered a miracle when compared to extreme measures used against the mentally ill, which included violence.
The first lobotomy was performed in 1935, and the procedure quickly became very popular all over the world. The Portugese inventor, Egas Moniz, even got a Nobel Prize in 1948 for his invention. He initially tried the lobotomy on two chimpanzees wherein he removed the frontal lobe, which made the animals go from being violent to calm. Then he tried the same on 11 female patients, who were in the asylum and said to be mentally sick, and the results were the same.
But soon afterwards, the practice quickly became unpopular and was made illegal in most countries, due to its various flaws. Today, it is illegal to perform a lobotomy anywhere in the world, and there are various reasons why this once popular treatment option is now abhorred by all.
It is done ‘blindly’
X-ray and other imaging machinery were only invented recently, while lobotomies were in use since 1936. Therefore, the entire procedure was done without the ‘surgeon’ knowing where they were inserting the metal spikes. The brain is a very complicated organ that, to this day, we still don’t understand how it functions exactly. What we do know is that every part of the brain is crucial, because the brain cells send billions of electrical messages every second. Now imagine a surgeon drilling some holes in the skull and pushing a sharp instrument like a pair of metal spikes into your brain without knowing where they are inserting them or which part of the brain is being poked. Further, this metal spike was moved randomly from side to side, which was supposed to cut the circuit in the frontal lobe from the internal brain.
The instruments were ‘crude’
If you have been to a surgery room or watched any medical show on TV, then you know just how much care is taken to ensure the instruments are sterilized and precise. Surgeons these days are adopting minimally invasive surgeries to the most possible extent.
But back in the 1930s and 1940s, they didn’t have the same level of precision or regard for sterility. The exact instruments used were simple iron spikes
Dr. Freeman later modified the procedure to insert the leucotome through the eye instead of through the skull. This was done by hammering the leucotome below the upper eyelid until it reached the brain, then wiggling it around. Such a procedure is unthinkable by today’s standards and further with a wooden handle. The importance of the brain for normal functioning and the delicacy of the brain cells calls for extreme precision and sterility to ensure the surgery goes well, something which lobotomy did not provide.highlights just how crude it was.
The results were only 33.3% positive
Between its inception in 1935 until the early 1950s when the procedure started to become illegal, there were over a hundred thousand lobotomies performed worldwide, and as many as 50,000 in Europe. Of all the lobotomies performed, only a third of them were effective, a third did not have any effect, and a third resulted in negative outcomes. In the field of medicine, 33.3% positive results are very low, and, by today’s standards, a drug with such a level of effectiveness would not be approved.
Negative side-effects were devastating
Lobotomy, like many other surgeries, had some temporary side effects like nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, inconsistency of the bowel and the bladder, disorientation, lethargy, etc. Lobotomies even produced devastating negative side effects, such as what happened to J. F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary, that left her in a vegetative state. Some lobotomies even ended with death, and some unusual side effects like reduced inhibition caused people to eat uncontrollably and subsequently become fat. Some patients had increased levels of promiscuity. Lobotomy was even done on a person named Benny to make him sober and non-violent, but this surgery left Benny in a state where he could not move or speak. He displayed inappropriate sexual behavior and whirled on the sidewalk and almost lost himself.
It didn’t require extensive training
It takes almost 10 years in school to make a brain surgeon, but those who performed lobotomies did not have any specialized training. One such non-trained person was Freeman. He did not follow the method of sterilizing the instruments or drilling the brain. His method was more barbaric in nature. He used an ice pick, which is a sharp instrument used to break ice, and just poked the mentally ill person’s brain with the ice pick, which went through the eye socket. He gave people shock instead of anesthesia and completed a single lobotomy in 12 minutes. His surgical method caused people to have convulsions and broken bones. Finally, when he damaged the blood vessels of a person’s brain which caused hemorrhages, this method was banned.
Most people who underwent lobotomy had some devastating effects and were never their normal self. Either they acted crazy or were reduced from being normal to childlike. They almost became like the zombies seen on television. People tried to consume unneeded medicines. They talked about unusual topics and needed more attention than before, which questioned the ethical aspects of lobotomy. It was expressed that a mental disability is much better than having a life without any feelings at all.
Lobotomy is thus an unforgettable and never to be repeated chapter in the history of medicinal science. Any treatment which will be conducted on the human body has to be tested and verified by the right scientific methods. The lobotomy was not scientifically proven and usually led to poor results. Patients who were originally cheerful and healthy were knocked off and turned out to be indifferent and unacceptable. Thus, lobotomy removed all social values from a human being and was never heard of after a particular period.
The above stated reasons are why lobotomy is still termed as an experimental project. The varying results and the lack of positive responses has made it one of the more controversial treatment procedures.