Lobotomy and Psychosurgery
The following is from August Man, May, 2010, "Hole in the head"
by Antonella Gambotto-Burke

American psychiatrist and psychiatric reformer Peter Breggin,
author of Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008) and the
subject of The Conscience of Psychiatry (2009), first
became aware of lobotomies when he ran the Harvard-Radcliffe Mental
Hospital Volunteer Program between 1954 and 1958.

“I was appalled,” he remembers. “They were obviously grossly
damaged, and reduced mostly to a state of apathetic docility, which
made them easier to manage.” Breggin began to read Freeman’s work,
and was astonished to discover that his mentor, Harvard’s Professor
Milton Greenblatt, had no moral or ethical qualms about lobotomies.
“I saw many lobotomised people briefly through my travels and
evaluated dozens more deeply,” Breggin continues. “In particular,
I followed up on numerous patients of H T Ballentine’s from the
Massachusetts General Hospital. These people were horrendously
damaged – nothing like the sterile descriptions of ‘improved’ in his
papers. They had gross cognitive and affective deficits, and severe
memory deficits consistent with severe dementia. I was an expert
in two cases that went to court, and even though we lost both, the
pressure, and probably the rising costs of insurance caused him
to stop.”

In 1967, Freeman performed his third lobotomy on a woman he had
first lobotomised in 1946. A cerebral blood vessel was severed, she
hemorrhaged, and died. Freeman’s surgical privileges were revoked,
and he retired shortly afterwards.

Around 1972, Breggin called Walter Freeman to ask about his
work and had a cordial conversation during which Freeman
boasted about the lobotomies he had performed. Breggin
recalls, “I asked almost casually if he thought there were any
moral issues surrounding lobotomy. He seemed quite surprised.”
Breggin was the first psychiatrist to dare act as a medical expert in
a malpractice suit against Freeman. The plaintiff was a former patient
of Freeman’s. “She used to pester doctors around town by calling
them and pleading for help,” he says. “She was depressed, suicidal, and
suffered from chronic dementia induced by lobotomy.”

Freeman died during the case, and it was dropped. He was never
made accountable for his recklessness, or for the devastation he
wreaked. Before Breggin’s campaign against psychosurgery was over,
most of the major lobotomy projects in the world had been stopped,
and the procedure was made illegal almost everywhere.

“Psychiatrists and neurosurgeons have always had free rein
to experiment on the human brain,” Breggin notes. “The current
psychiatric mindset is no different. What’s going on with the mass
drugging of children now is, in some ways, a far greater atrocity than
lobotomy. Psychiatrists remain afraid of pushing lobotomy publicly and
only a few projects continue – at Harvard and Brown Universities – that
we know of. But the nature of psychiatry cannot be changed; it can only
be constrained by public outrage.”

Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, second edition by Peter R Breggin MD
is published by Springer Publishing Company.

Messing With My Head: The Shocking True Story of My Lobotomy, by
Howard Dully, is published by Vermilion

Peter Breggin’s professional website: http://www.breggin.com


"In 1971 I discoverd that psychiatrists and neurosurgeons were planning and implementing a worldwide revival of lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery.  At the time I was not an activist, but I was aware that no one had publicly opposed the first round of lobotomies in the 1940s and 1950s. I decided to take a stand. That decision led me to form the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and eventually evolved into two decades of psychiatric reform activities.

My medical background convinced me that improvintg the techniques of psychiatric surgery--for example, by replacing the scalpel with hot electrodes--would not make the interventions any less damaging.  Without harming the brain, there could be no "therapeutic" effect. The surgery must destroy enough function to flatten the patient's emotions, and there is no way to accomplish that without creating even more widespread mental devastation, including the relative loss of essential human qualities such as creativity, spontaneity, personal responsibility, self-insight, social sensitivity and awareness, and judgement. Research and my personal experiences would confirm this initial impression."

Peter R. Breggin, MD--discussing his pivotal role in stopping the second wave of lobotomy in the early 1970s.  Quoted from The War Against Children of Color, How the drugs, programs, and theories of the psychiatric establishment are threatening America’s children with a medical ‘cure’ for violence (1998) by Peter R Breggin, MD, co-authored with Ginger Ross Breggin.  
Download entire August Man Article Here
Download entire August Man Article Here
Dr. Peter Breggin and Colleagues
Launch New Reform Organization &
Annual Spring Conference


Peter R. Breggin, MD is no longer affiliated with the Center for the Study of Psychiatry, informally known as International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, which he founded and led from 1972-2002, and Dr. Breggin will not participate in its conferences.   Dr. Breggin and his colleagues will hold their new annual spring conference April 8-10, 2011.  Details are available at http://www.empathictherapy.org.
Brain-Disabling Treatments
in Psychiatry by Peter Breggin MD
Psychiatry's nature cannot be changed; it can only be constrained by public outrage