Tanuj Bansal

Mental illnesses are well known since the time of ancient Mesopotamia but there were no treatments. Unless those times, today mental illnesses are very common and are not seen as God’s wrath or that they are being caused by specific deities, instead we have pharmaceuticals and therapies ranging from different categories with a whole lot of studies and science behind them done by experts of this field. But ever thought what about the times just before the pharmaceuticals came into existence for mental illnesses? How it was performed? Who did perform and it was invented by who and where? Well, that’s what today we are going know about.

Lobotomy, a form psycho-surgery, neurosurgical treatment for mental disorders that involves severing in brain’s prefrontal cortex. Most of the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex and the anterior part of the frontal parts of brain are severed. For more than two decades it was used for mental illnesses. The procedure was controversial from its initial use due to the balance between benefits and risks and is mostly rejected as a humane form of treatment now, to preserve patient’s rights.

The originator of lobotomy is Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz who shared the Nobel prize for discovering its therapeutical value for psychosis in 1949 which is a subject of controversy. Dramatic rise of this treatment was seen in 1940s to 1950s. By, 1951 almost 20,000 lobotomies had been performed in United States and more than this in United Kingdom. Majorly women were the patients who had this treatment in that time.

British Psychiatrist Maurice Partridge’s study of 300 patients stated reducing the complexity of psychic life. The results are specified as mixed because some patient died after the procedure, some committed suicides and died, some were left severely brain damaged, other were able to leave hospital, some came back to responsible life and some were left with severe and disabling impairments. From 1950s onward this procedure was abandoned in Soviet Union and Europe as it was the most brutal, barbaric and inhumane and infamous medical procedure of all time because of the process where an ice pick hammered into the eye socket and wiggled around to cut the connections that often left the patient in vegetative state after the drilling into the skull method was developed. The most famous lobotomy was performed on sister of John F. Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, who after the procedure was incapacitated and institutionalized till her death. Lobotomy fell out of favor after the effective pharmaceutical medicines and treatment came along.


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