Lobotomy

Lobotomies have largely fallen out of practice since the 1950s. But why? It seems like such a good idea!

Taken from Walter Freeman's Medical Manual, p. 9.

Just The Facts

  1. Patients rarely consented to lobotomies, but they were performed anyway
  2. It is unknown how anybody could have possibly thought this was a good idea
  3. Maybe they were high?

What is a Lobotomy?

A lobotomy is defined as someone calling themselves a doctor disconnecting (violently hacking) the connections between a patient's prefrontal cortex and the rest of his or her brain. When this procedure was for some reason considered viable, it was used to "cure" schizophrenia, clinical depression, and various anxiety disorders. Seems like a good idea, considering this is the part of the brain largely responsible the "orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals." Right?

No. Not right, you goddamn psycho. Wrong.

First of all, there's this little thing I like to call an "ice pick lobotomy." Now, it would be nice to say that this name is some kind of misleading medical jargon, that "ice pick" is just another word for "lollipop." But there's absolutely no way around it. The ice pick lobotomy is exactly what it sounds like. The practice was started by the one and only Walter Freeman, great American hero. He used a common ice pick, a common rubber mallet, and no common fucking sense. It's hard to imagine the kind of dialogue during one of these delicate procedures, but we'd imagine it went a lot like this:

Dr. Freeman: Ice pick.

Assistant: [hands "Dr." Freeman ice pick]

Dr. Freeman: Rubber mallet.

Assistant: [hands over the rubber mallet]

Dr. Freeman: [hammers ice pick into patient's brain through right eye socket]

Assistant: What the fuck are you doing, sir!?

Dr. Freeman: What did you expect, dipshit? I asked you for an ice pick and a rubber mallet, didn't I? Now shut the hell up and let me do my job.

The procedure is pretty self-explanatory.

Now, if sense was measured in ounces, the concept doesn't even make a goddamn ounce of sense. The whole reason anybody thought it worked was because someone at Yale ice-picked a chimp's brain...and discovered that while their learning ability was greatly diminished, their emotional states were greatly altered. No shit, really? Altered how? Like, in the way where they're stumbling around clamoring for flesh because they've been made into zombies, you fucking dolts? Of course, Egas Moniz wasn't going to let that stand between him and his Nobel Prize.

Egas Moniz

Devastated by his Nobel Prize snubbing (presumably for his revolutionary "rub some dirt on it" stitching technique), Moniz was determined to come up with another preposterous idea to win over the committee (the Nobel Prize is voted on by a committee, right?). How did he do it, you ask? It's simple really. Moniz suggested tthat, what better way to cure schizophrenia than by injecting pure alcohol in the brain? Moniz won his Nobel Prize in 1949 for this suggestion. Let it be repeated. Moniz won his Nobel Prize in 1949 for this suggestion. While this is slightly less terrifying than William Freeman's ice pick method, it does not excuse the fact that it's completely fucking retarded.

No caption needed

What's really baffling about Moniz is the way he determined it could be a good idea--assuming, of course, he actually thought it was a good idea. In 1890, a man named Gottlieb Burckhardt performed what he called "partial leucotomies" on six patients. For the lay man, this is essentially the same thing as a lobotomy. Two wound up dead, and the other four "exhibited altered behavior." We begin to sense a theme, and it's this whole "altered behavior" thing. And since researching the exact meaning of "altered behavior" was too much like doing his actual job, Moniz decided "fuck it" and just went for it. He found out, first hand, that "altered behavior" is medical balderdash for "seizures, pants-shitting, and death." Again, we need to ask the question.

How the FUCK did doctors think this would be a good idea?