The Lobotomy Craze: Treatment or Torture?

You’ve probably already heard the word “lobotomy”, but do you know what it actually is? Sure, we know that it has to do something with the brain and skull. But what is it really, and what were they done for? Those are the questions that we are going to answer here today. This procedure made waves in the field of psychiatry in the mid-20th century. Some hailed it as a breakthrough, while others condemned it as a form of cruelty. So, let’s go back to that time and explore the rise and fall of the lobotomy, and how it teached us all a hard lesson.

Where the Lobotomy Began

Our story begins with a doctor named Egas Moniz, who, in the 1930s, dared to challenge conventional wisdom in the treatment of mental illness. Frustrated by the limited options available for patients with severe psychiatric disorders, Moniz pioneered a bold new approach: the lobotomy. His idea was to cut certain connections in the brain’s prefrontal cortex to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. How he wanted to cut those connections… well, that was the issue.

A lobotomy wasn’t for the faint of heart, to say the least. Doctors drilled ACTUAL HOLES into the skull and inserted a specialized instrument, such as an ice pick, into the brain tissue. With careful precision, they targeted specific neural pathways, severing or destroying connections in the prefrontal cortex. The hope was that by disrupting these circuits, patients would experience relief from their mental troubles. However, even though this sounds great in theory, there’s a reason why this procedure was short-lived.

The Rise in Popularity

As word of Moniz’s groundbreaking procedure spread, so too did the hope it inspired. In an era when psychiatric medications were very limited, and many psychological disorders were deemed “incurable”, lobotomies were exactly what everyone was hoping for. As gruesome as they may be, they offered everyone a glimmer of hope. Stories of miraculous recoveries started circulating, and the controversial procedure suddenly created a lot of buzz.


Despite its initial promise, the lobotomy soon drew criticism and concern. Critics questioned the ethics of a procedure performed without informed consent and warned of its potential for irreversible harm. There were numerous examples where patients would wake up from a lobotomy with altered personalities, changes in their cognitive abilities, and a loss of autonomy. This raised troubling questions about its true efficacy and ethical justification.

The Fall from Grace

By the late 1950s, the tide began to turn against the lobotomy. Emerging evidence of its shortcomings and adverse effects, coupled with the advent of safer psychiatric medications, led to a decline in its use. Public awareness of the ethical concerns surrounding the lobotomy grew, prompting a reevaluation of its place in psychiatric practice.

The legacy of lobotomy serves as a cautionary tale about the intersection of medical progress and ethical responsibility. While it may have been well-intended, the lobotomy ultimately caused more harm than good. Its rise and fall remind us of the importance of humility, compassion, and ethical vigilance in the pursuit of mental health treatment.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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