Tag Archives: Mical Raz

Mical Raz in The Psychologist: Looking Back: Interpreting Lobotomy – The Patients’ Stories

The January 2014 issue of The Psychologist, the flagship publication of the British Psychological Society (BPS), is now online and includes an article on patient experiences of lobotomy. In “Looking Back: Interpreting Lobotomy – The Patients’ Stories” historian of medicine Mical Raz describes how patients and their families experienced the lobotomies preformed by Walter Freeman in the first half of the twentieth century. As Raz describes,

Freeman’s commitment toward the patients and the restoration of their health seemed so evident to patients and their families that even in cases of an unsuccessful lobotomy leading to disability or death, the families of the patients expressed their gratitude to him. Following a patient’s death after a second surgical attempt, the patient’s sister thanked Freeman and his partner, James Watts, for their ‘concern and interest’ in her sister’s condition. She was sure, she added, that her sister also would have thanked the physicians, ‘if she were able to do so’ (Maeve Ingber’s sister to James Watts, 1948). In his response, Freeman wrote that he and Watts had been ‘greatly disappointed in the outcome’. Yet he added that this had been a ‘situation of extraordinary difficulty where surgery offered the only opportunity for giving her peace of mind’. Commending the sister for her positive attitude toward ‘this unfortunate outcome’, Freeman thanked her for her letter (WF to Maeve Ingber’s sister, 1948). The physicians’ willingness to attempt surgery, and thus provide even a slim hope of cure, was interpreted as evidence of their care and dedication. For the families, this expression of interest and what was seen as a sincere desire to help their loved one was so significant that the results of the lobotomy, even the death of the patient, could be interpreted in a positive manner.

The article can be read in full here.

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New Book: Mical Raz’s The Lobotomy Letters

Physician and historian of medicine Mical Raz‘s new book on the history of American psychosurgery is now in print. Raz’s book, The Lobotomy Letters: The Making of American Psychosurgery, explores the history of this controversial procedure through the letters of patients, physicians, and families. The volume is described as follows:

The rise and widespread acceptance of psychosurgery constitutes one of the most troubling chapters in the history of modern medicine. By the late 1950s, tens of thousands of Americans had been lobotomized as treatment for a host of psychiatric disorders. Though the procedure would later be decried as devastating and grossly unscientific, many patients, families, and physicians reported veritable improvement from the surgery; some patients were even considered cured.

The Lobotomy Letters gives an account of why this controversial procedure was sanctioned by psychiatrists and doctors of modern medicine. Drawing from original correspondence penned by lobotomy patients and their families as well as from the professional papers of lobotomy pioneer and neurologist Walter Freeman, the volume reconstructs how physicians, patients, and their families viewed lobotomy and analyzes the reasons for its overwhelming use.

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