Dr. Freeman’s Lobotomy

This story makes me sick to my stomach. A couple nights ago, I watched American Experience: The Lobotomist on Public Television. The procedure itself has a great deal of ick factor, but even more alarming is how Dr. Freeman was able to invent and then cavalierly practice his procedure without scientific method, or peer review, or even a surgeon’s license. From now through January 25th, 2008, you can ask questions in an online forum of people who appeared in the program, including Dr. Freeman’s sons, and the daughter of a woman who was apparently cured of her depression by lobotomy. Don’t let this opportunity get away!

lobotomy blueprint

photo by jylcat

Beginning with his private practice, Dr. Walter Freeman eventually performed lobotomy on thousands of mentally ill people in hospitals across the US without permission of the patients or consultation with their families. He performed his procedure on more than a dozen children, including one as young as four-years old. For ten years or more in the 1940’s or 50’s he was lauded by the press as having invented a cure for mental illness. A few patients experienced a miraculous recovery, but for many others it was trade-off. They became docile, emotionless and child-like, but there was no relief of their illness or restoration of their mental health. Some patients even died during lobotomy.

I guess what really made me sick to watch this television program was to realize that with the level of desperation I have experienced since my son has become severely ill with schizoaffective disorder, I would have absolutely gone along with a treatment like this one for my son, if I had been promised by “a man in a white coat” all that lobotomy was once touted to be.

Explore posts in the same categories: Mental Illness

8 Comments on “Dr. Freeman’s Lobotomy”

  1. Danielle Blogging for Balance Says:

    I am currently reading the just released book My Lobotomy by Howard Dully. He was operated on by Dr. Freeman, Here is an excerpt from the back of the book jacket:
    “My name is Howard Dully, In 1960, when I was twelve years old, I was given a lobotomy. My stepmother arranged it. My father agreed to it. Dr. Walter Freeman, the man who invented the ‘ice pick lobotomy,’ performed it. My family paid the hospital $200. And I never understood why. I wasn’t a violent kid. I had never hurt anyone. I wasn’t failing out of school. I wasn’t in trouble with the law. I wasn’t depressed or suicidal. I wasn’t dangerous. Was there something I had done that was so horrible I deserved a lobotomy?”

    I thought it might be a book you would be interested.

    The last paragraph of your post was compelling. You are a parent that loves your son to the deep ends of the ocean. There is nothing wrong with that. We make the best decision we know how at the time we make it. It’s the best we can do at that point in time.

  2. Hero Says:

    Danielle,
    Thanks for your compassion for my final paragraph. I am actually rather filled with self-loathing about it.

    Howard Dully appeared in the program, so I know a little about his situation. It was truly horrible. Of course, his parents are responsible, and not Howard (bless his heart), but it cannot be discounted that by this time Dr. Freeman was performing lobotomies for apparently any excuse that could be made up at all, along with making promises about safety and efficacy that he should not have. This is not to mention the fact that he should not have been practicing medicine at all for all his presumptuous behavior and ignoring his hippocratic oath. He had been basically run off from the east coast, it sounded like. Thanks for the recommendation, Danielle.

  3. links for 2008-02-14 « Frogstar World B Says:

    […] Mental Hero » Blog Archive » Dr. Freeman’s Lobotomy […]

  4. Hagman Says:

    I just stumbled upon this page, researching the life-and-times of Dr.(?) Walter Freeman…
    Behavioral, Chemical, and Psychological disorders have been commonly, and haphazardly diagnosed to my siblings, my friends, and even myself, by practitioners as educated in such specialty as I..,(and probably as much as Mr. Freeman).
    But,I would not have thought twice about allowing a “Doctor” to give me stitches, take my blood, cast an injury…But, to allow someone to do such invasive, unproven, and life-threatening “surgery” to so many..?….I can’t believe that happened in this century!..
    God Bless You and Your Loved Ones! Mental “Disorder” should have never equated to “Guinea-Pig” or “Non-Citizen”…
    (Jeffrey Dahmer tried similar tactics to placate his unruly subjects..)
    Stay Out Of My Brain,
    Hagman
    Love Your Loved-Ones

  5. Kyle Says:

    I have been diagnosed w have been diagnosed with your sons disorder.I am now 22 yrs of age and have simply found that I could feel better after using marijuana.And ever since I have lived life alot more of a better and peacefull person.It has been working 4 me for the past 4 yrs.I’m not saying u should do this but would like u 2 know that your son could have a positive reaction and would eventually heel.Thank u 4 being a concerned and very thoughtful mother.

  6. Tina Says:

    Freeman was an egomaniacal monster that should have been tried for crimes against humanity and murder. The only consolation is that he is writhing in the pits of hell, now and forevermore.

  7. Ramie Says:

    to me i am only a child…I can not comprehend the total situationand pain families have to go through seeing that happen to there loved ones. Though Dr. Freeman was in wrong doing of preforming these operations without concent is just preposterous…but you must realize that in the start he wanted to cure mental illness but as his fame grew he began to be clouded and drifted of the path of doing whats right…though im only 16 i cant tell you who he was but i have enough understanding to know that he tried to do something for the ill when no one else would…and thats my stand point on it

  8. Weeser1 Says:

    I just came across this website, looking for info on Dr.Freeman. My Mother was in an institution most of her life in Virginia. State facilities are awful. She was there in “57 thru the “70’s. I saw that he was in West Virginia . She continued to decline over the years.Eventually, they did want to release her. She is in a nursing home now.
    I was a child when this happened. But have wondered what went on in those places. When we went to visit, it was so much like a prison.To see my Mother there was so awful. She was a vet when she went in. One of two woman in a large class of men. It was during the war when they allowed women to go to college. Her career was cut short. And our chance to ever know her , as she was , also gone.There were shock treatments given . Which makes me wonder, what else was done? By who ? It must have been a helpless feeling .
    Ramie, I can understand your thoughts about this. You sound very smart. We all have paths in life. I have been learning about Law. Even though now, it’s later in life as Iam a Grandma . Go with your interests while you are still young. Things are deeper than they appear.

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