Knowing what we know today and the fact that we have access to some pretty awesome anti-psychotic drugs it is hard to believe that a lobotomy was actually considered a tremendous advancement in science and medicine.
Although the procedure wasn't invented in America, or even by an American, USA was seen as the world leader at the time and their adoption of this practice kind of gave the rest of the world the "green light" as far as blendering the front portion of someone's brain was concerned.
The year was 1936.
Walter Freeman is seen as the "father of the lobotomy" and as I mentioned he is not the person who discovered that the pre-frontal lobe's removal caused people with severe mental disorders to calm TF down. However, he was the first person to perform said procedure without drilling holes into the skull. The removal or destruction of the front of the brain was credited to Portuguese neurologist Antonio Egas Moniz who actually received a Nobel Prize for this discovery.
Dr. Freeman was able to perform the same procedure by going through the eye socket in a process called the “ice-pick” lobotomy. This procedure required no drilling and could be completed in 10 minutes. Yes, it is as gruesome as it sounds. This description of the procedure makes my skin crawl.
It seems rather barbaric by today's standards but Freeman was not a mad scientist, he merely believe the state of a patient after a lobotomy (in regards to severe mental illness) to be better than the alternative. In some cases the patients were rendered permanently into a vegetative state. However, prior to that they had to be physically restrained in straight-jackets, padded cells, or had to be constantly be extremely sedated. Given the fact that mental hospitals were friggin overflowing in the late 30's and early 40's, this advancement was seen as a magnificent cure-all.
With what we know today it is difficult to imagine that this process carried on well into the 60's. Just kidding, the procedure has been performed well into the 1980's sometimes against the patient's will.
Today, lobotomies are still performed although it is extremely rare, the procedure doesn't involve hammering through the eye socket, and it is never performed without the patient's consent unless there is a court order - I am not aware of any recent time that this has been such a sentence handed down by a court.
although it is 100% fiction, Jack Nicholson's lobotomy in "One Flew over the Cukcoo's nest is probably the most famous of all time (see that movie, by the way)
It was quite fashionable in the 40's to dole out lobotomies for all manor of illness, and there are even rumblings of it being used on political opponents, of course, against their will. The advancement of drugs in the 50's and 60's lead to a near complete elimination of the procedure.
One of the most famous failures and a great example of overuse of the lobotomy was the case of Rosemary Kennedy - the sister of future president John F. Kennedy.
Rosemary was described as having "occasional mood swings" and being a rebellious child. Her frustrated father took Rosemary to see a now famous Dr. Freeman who diagnosed her with agitated depression and performed the lobotomy the same day. After the procedure she had lost the ability to speak and now had extremely limited mental capacities.
Rather than admit that he "effed up" Rosemary's father had her institutionalized and hid the fact that the botched lobotomy had been ordered by him. It wasn't until a long while after her father's death that the truth behind Rosemary's case was revealed. She never did regain the ability to speak and remained in a care home until she was 86. Ironically, she is the only of her siblings to die of natural causes.