By Colin Taufer
In 1949, Antonio Egas Moniz won the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine. His award-winning contribution to mankind? “His discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses. A leucotomy is more commonly known as a lobotomy, the neurosurgical procedure consisting of cutting or scraping away the connective tissue to and from the brain’s prefrontal cortex in the name of mental health. Or, in the words of psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, it’s simply the disabling of the brain.
The “ice pick lobotomy” was one of the most common psychiatric “therapies” of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It was popularized by Dr. Walter Freeman who personally lobotomized over 2900 people across twenty-three states,lobotomy including nineteen children. In this procedure, a doctor hammered an ice-pick-like tool through the patient’s eye socket then swiveled the pick back and forth torip apart whatever brain tissue it touched. Through such techniques, patients were thereby rendered less sentient and more vacant. In other words, they were “cured” of their ills. (Dr. Freeman and his lobotomies are covered excellently in this Wall Street Journal article and this PBS documentary. I highly recommend both.)
These days such brain-disabling procedures are viewed as barbaric, crude and inhumane. Certainly, today’s modern, compassionate society would not tolerate such tissue-mangling procedures in the name of mental health. Or would we?
Unfortunately, we do. Today’s psychiatrists continue to practice neurosurgical brain disablement in the name of “therapy”. They’ve simply replaced the hammer and ice-pick with “radiofrequency ablation” and “stereotactic neurosurgery”. In today’s procedure, an external framework is placed around the patient’s head and is used to precisely guide an electrical current to an exact part of the brain to destroy the targeted tissue. Not only is the patient “cured” by this modern procedure, but they also may suffer such side effects as an absence of willpower (abulia), seizures and suicide. The procedure is called a cingulotomy.
Search the internet for details about the cingulotomy and you will end up having to sift through wordy, medical lingo that is difficult to decipher: “Stereotactic surgery using radio frequency ablation was performed while the patient was awake.” Or misleading descriptions which pleasantly refer to the procedure as “deep brain stimulation”.
But don’t be fooled by fancy words and pretty websites. While today’s psychiatrist may utilize more advanced equipment to give the procedure an aura of modernity and sophistication, in the end they maim the same way the ice pick lobotomy “cured” patients, with permanent brain damage and disablement.
Welcome to my monthly column. I am a career educator, writer and lifelong advocate for human rights. With each article, I hope to shine a light into the dark world of psychiatry to make stronger champions of human rights, to stir into action, to enlighten. As always, I appreciate feedback from readers. I can be reached at Colin@PsychSearch.net