Another gruesome vid: lobotomy

Here’s some fascinating footage from 1942, showing Drs. James Watts and Walter Freeman performing a prefrontal leucotomy. The footage accompanies a short article called Lobotomy Revisited, and, like last week’s trepanation film clip, is not for the squeamish.)

The procedure shown in the film is the Freeman-Watts Standard Procedure, which had been in use since 1936. This is different from the “ice-pick” lobotomy, which Freeman began to perform in 1945; it more closely resembles the original procedure of the Portugese neurosurgeon Egas Moniz.


  1. #1 Joshua Zelinsky
    February 19, 2008

    Odd, this video was more disturbing to watch than the trepanation even though this one is less graphic. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that this is being performed by modern, well-meaning doctors.

  2. #2 ERV
    February 19, 2008

    ‘The delicacy and accuracy of the method’. Heh.

  3. #3 gerald spezio
    February 21, 2008

    “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

    Mandatory graphic education illustrating the arrogance of professed and DEMONSTRATED expertise (stay in the plane, Doc!) (i.e. control by some humans over other humans with PROFESSIONALISM as justification.

    All lovers of science as the best way of knowing so far discovered must eat crow when we see this powerful evidence of human frailty and falling in love with our most beloved theory.

    “Never let your bead get all the way over to unity … leave some room for skepticism”

    At the outset of the film, the voice over says; “A local anaesthetic is used, if the patient is cooperative.”

    Phew, what a lesson!

  4. #4 Bee
    February 24, 2008

    A near relative of mine had a prefrontal lobotomy performed on her circa 19 53-54. The effects were multiple and sometimes life destroying, but hard to separate from the effects of her pre-existing psychiatric condition. But more than twenty-five years later, walking through the hospital to visit a patient, she stopped dead in a hallway lined with dozens of those framed multiple two inch photo collages of former physicians, and pointed to one grainy face. “That’s the doctor who operated on me.” she said, and then walked on without another word.

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