The total number of persons lobotomized by Freeman alone was close to 3,500. During the 1940s and 1950s, lobotomies were performed on close to 50,000 patients in the United States, and around 17,000 in Western Europe and 4,500 in Sweden. Most were women and some were children as young as four. How many of these died prematurely from the operation is unknown, but the number is significant, estimated at up to six percent, or as many as 45,000 persons.Common serious problems included severe hemorrhaging, brain seizures, loss of motor control, partial paralysis, enormous weight gains, and intellectual and emotional malfunction. If a major blood vessel was damaged or severed, it could cause death, as it did in close to 5% of those treated. Lobotomy was used to treat not only the mentally ill, but also the criminally insane. It was even used to ‘cure’ political dissidents.
Amazingly, the 1949 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was given to Egas Moniz “for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses”—a treatment that was then considered “one of the most important discoveries ever made in psychiatric therapy.” The award is one more evidence that, in its heyday, lobotomy was “not an aberrant event but very much in the mainstream in psychiatry,” uncritically supported and performed enthusiastically in leading university hospitals in countries around the world.
And of course: