Essay on The Lobotomy

1797 Words 8 Pages
Better to Have a Bottle in Front of Me Than a Frontal Lobotomy

In the movie, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," Mcmurphy, the main character, undergoes a frontal lobotomy ("cutting of the lobes") to treat his ‘mental illness,’ after several rounds of ECT were unsuccessful in crushing his spirit. In the final scenes of the movie we see from his disposition that he has been reduced from an animated, hyperactive state to a vegetative state. McMurphy’s friend, Chief, tries to talk him, but he stares straight ahead and does not respond. The movie takes place in an insane asylum in the 1950’s, the height of the lobotomy craze in the United States. Between 1939 and 1950, nearly 20,000 documented lobotomies were performed, and thousands more
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The German scientist, Friederich Golz began by cutting the frontal lobes on dogs. He noted that even ferocious dogs became more tame and subdued after the surgery (1). In 1892, in an insane asylum in Switzerland, Gottleib Burkhardt was inspired by Golz to try the procedure on human subjects. He treated patients who were having hallucinations to lobotomies. Some of his patients did become more calm after the surgery, and others died from complications. Burkhardt’s strategy was widely criticized, and there was not much heard about lobotomies for nearly half a decade (1).

Why the frontal lobe?? It became more clear in observations of lobotomized patients that scientists’ theories about the frontal lobes of the brain were correct. The frontal lobe is thought to be a sort of control center, and the location of the self in the brain (5). It is involved in some motor function, problem solving (divergent thinking), spontaneity, memory, language, judgment, impulse control, social and sexual behavior. "Patients with frontal lobe damage exhibit little spontaneous facial expression, which points to the role of the frontal lobes in facial expression (Kolb & Milner, 1981). Broca's Aphasia, or difficulty in speaking, has been associated with frontal damage by Brown (1972)," (5). Also, lobotomy patients might seem more calm because frontal lobe damage results in a difficulty in interpreting one’s environment. The patient has trouble

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