Are Lobotomies Illegal? A Look into the History of Psychiatric Treatments
- January 5, 2024
- Scientific Insights
- 0 Comments
Are lobotomies illegal? This seemingly simple question opens up a complex story of medical history, ethical debates, and legal considerations.
In today’s post, Mental Map Guide will bring you a deep knowledge of lobotomies, their impact on medicine, the history of Psychiatric treatments, and more.
But first, let’s learn what lobotomies are.
Table of Contents
Lobotomy is alternatively known as leucotomy, prefrontal lobotomy, or prefrontal leucotomy.
The term “lobotomy” refers to different surgeries that break connections between the frontal lobe and other brain areas linked to higher cognitive functions and emotional control. Typically, the procedure involved inserting a tool through the eyes or drilling holes in the skull to reach the brain.
Although this method is a way to relieve mental illness symptoms, it also often influences significant changes in personality, memory, problem-solving skills, and self-care.
- Prefrontal Leucotomies: Removing connections in the frontal lobes through surgical incisions in the skull.
- Transorbital Lobotomies: Entering the frontal lobes through the eye sockets.
- Standard Lobotomies: An operation using a more standard surgical technique, like drilling holes into the skull.
- Bilateral Lobotomies: Removal of the brain on both sides.
- Chemical Lobotomies: Inducing sedation and reducing mental activity by using medications such as reserpine.
- Modified Lobotomies: Various modifications to the original procedures to reduce side effects or simplify the process.
Doctors created lobotomy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because there were no medicines or effective therapies for mental health problems, and counseling was just starting.
Back then, people with severe symptoms lived in crowded psychiatric hospitals and asylums in Europe. Doctors were looking for a solution.
The lobotomy story began in 1891 when Swiss psychiatrist Gottlieb Burckhardt did brain surgery on people with severe schizophrenia. He took out parts of their brains and saw they became quieter, but it was more about calming symptoms than curing.
In the 1930s, Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz and his colleague Almeida Lima brought back the idea of creating leucotomy. They pushed the procedure across Europe, even though there wasn’t strong proof it worked. Moniz got a Nobel Prize for it in 1949.
An American neurologist, Walter Jackson Freeman, adopted the procedure in 1936 called it the lobotomy. He changed it by using a surgical tool instead of alcohol, making the prefrontal lobotomy. Freeman and his partner James Watts did the first prefrontal lobotomy in the United States in September 1936.
In 1945, Freeman changed the procedure again, making the transorbital lobotomy. It was quicker and didn’t leave scars.
Lobotomies treated mental health problems and solved overcrowding in psychiatric institutions during the 1930s.
Moniz believed that a physical malfunction in the brain caused symptoms like mental health conditions such as depression. He thought he could cure them by severing the linking between the frontal lobe and other regions, essentially forcing a reset.
Moniz and Freeman reported significant improvements in many of their patients despite some showing no progress and a few even experiencing worse symptoms. Nevertheless, the lobotomy gained popularity.
By the early 1940s, the procedure was widely hailed as a miraculous cure for mental health conditions, and experts embraced it as a mainstream psychiatric intervention.
The primary purpose of the lobotomy was to treat mental health conditions or alleviate their symptoms. Burckhardt used it to cut down aggression in people with schizophrenia, attributing this behavior to the frontal lobe.
When Moniz and Lima reintroduced the lobotomy in the 1930s, their goal was to change the behavior of individuals with mental health conditions, often resulting in increased docility.
- This applied to people with intellectual disabilities, those who were gay, and individuals in prison for crimes linked to “criminal insanity.”
- A 2018 study notes the majority of lobotomized individuals were women.
Analyzing a U.S. hospital’s records from 1947–1954, out of 245 lobotomies performed, 84% were on women, despite having more male patients and more men diagnosed with schizophrenia. Doctors often cited the need to “maintain order” in the hospital and reasons like a lack of interest in child care or “strange behavior.”
Sometimes, doctors use lobotomies to attempt to treat physical conditions like ulcerative colitis or brain tumors.
If you have a lobotomy, a surgery that changes connections in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. It might affect your behavior, thinking, and emotions. More importantly, the outcomes may differ among individuals, and the results of a lobotomy are only sometimes easy to predict. Here are some common things linked to the procedure:
Lobotomy can bring a lot of changes to your personality. You might lack self-care, self-esteem, or less awareness of what’s happening around them. The procedure can take away parts of your identity and emotions.
Lobotomies can cause problems with thinking and affect memory, attention, and overall cognitive abilities. You will find facing challenges, dealing with problems, or learning new things tough.
It might have been intended to ease intense emotional distress. Still, it can also lead to a lack of emotional expression, reduced feelings, and a general decline in emotions and variety.
Lobotomy can affect social and interpersonal skills, like connecting emotionally and understanding others.
You might lose your desire to work towards personal goals, participate in activities, or take charge of your lives.
By targeting the frontal lobes, the lobotomy affects executive functions, such as planning and decision-making. Lobotomies are also the reason that makes your daily life harder to manage.
Lobotomy might result in unexpected and occasionally undesired behavioral changes. While it may alleviate severe symptoms of mental illness, it can also result in impulsive behavior and a loss of control.
Lobotomies are banned in some places but are still done in a few countries. In 1950, the Soviet Union prohibited lobotomies because they went against humane principles. Other countries like Japan and Germany also banned them later.
In 1967, Freeman got banned from doing lobotomies after a patient had a deadly brain hemorrhage from the procedure. However, the U.S. and much of Western Europe didn’t ban lobotomies, and they were still happening in these areas until the 1980s.
Lobotomies are becoming unpopular today, but they are still technically permissible. Surgeons now make use of an innovative type of psychosurgery known as a cingulotomy instead. Focusing and modifying specific sections of brain tissue is a must priority.
Some surgeons tend to use a cingulotomy to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), even if that hasn’t improved with other treatments. Doctors sometimes also use it to treat chronic pain.
So Are Lobotomies Legal? I hope you find your answer after reading this article. If you are interested in mental health topics, such as reducing stress, healing trauma, healthy nutrition… etc. Remember to visit Mental Map Guide Blog for more valuable information.