Campaigners Call On Nobel Committee To Pull Prize For Lobotomy
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2005
WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--In 1941, when Rosemary Kennedy was 23 years old, her father secretly arranged for her to undergo what was considered a pioneering surgical treatment: a prefrontal lobotomy, a form of what is known as psychosurgery.
The procedure was intended to keep John F. Kennedy's oldest sister, who was considered to have mild mental retardation, from engaging in "aggressive" and "inappropriate" behavior.
Instead the surgery damaged her brain to the point where she reportedly was no longer able to talk or do simple tasks. She spent most of the next 60 years in a Wisconsin institution until she died this past January 7 at the age of 86.
Doctors stopped performing lobotomies in the 1970s, mostly because of the rise in the use of medications and electroshock therapies to treat mental illness and behaviors.
The July 14 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine looked at a renewed debate over the practice of psychosurgery.
According to a summary on the journal's Website, Dr. Barron Lerner, a medical historian and associate professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, argued that the lobotomy illustrated what happens when doctors and patients have felt something needed to be done in seemingly hopeless situations.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a group is campaigning to have the Nobel Prize Foundation revoke the 1949 prize for medicine that it gave to Egas Moniz, the Portuguese neurologist who invented the lobotomy.
Retired nurse Carol Noell Duncanson, said the life of her mother, Anna Ruth Channels, changed radically after she was lobotomized to end chronic headaches in 1949.
"She never had a life after her lobotomy," Duncanson said. "She had nothing."
"Lobotomies Back in spotlight" (Associated Press via MSNBC)
"Last-Ditch Medical Therapy -- Revisiting Lobotomy" (New England Journal of Medicine)
[Note: The journal requires a separate subscription to view the entire article]
Psychosurgery.org: Remembering the tragedy of lobotomy