'Lobotomist' Serves as a Warning
Documentary Shows Damage Done When Medicine Goes Awry
January 15, 2008
One of the most horrifying medical treatments of the 20th century was carried out not clandestinely, but with the approval of the medical establishment, the media and the public. Known as the transorbital or "ice pick" lobotomy, the crude and destructive brain-scrambling operation performed on thousands of psychiatric patients between the 1930s and 1960s was touted as a cure for mental illness.
The story of how Freeman sold his procedure to credulous colleagues, assiduously courted the press and convinced desperate families that sticking an ice pick through a patient's upper eye sockets and twirling it like a swizzle stick through brain matter would cure psychosis, depression or troublesome behavior is the ultimate in cautionary medical tales.