January 18

By 1951, more than 18,608 individuals in America had been lobotomized

A 1952 CIA memo titled: “LOBOTOMY and Related Operations” discussed the question: Is lobotomy a solution for “disposal” of an individual who might pose a security risk? Lee and Shlain (Acid Dreams) report that a group of CIA scientists entertained the possibility of using an “icepick” lobotomy to render an individual harmless “from a security point of view.” They cite a memo dated Feb. 7, 1952, that refers to an unidentified surgeon in the Washington DC area who performed the operation which involved destroying brain tissue by piercing the skull just above the eye with a fine surgical icepick. This type of psychosurgery had certain advantages in that it resulted in “nervous confusional and amnesia effects” without leaving a “tell-tale scar.” The surgeon, no doubt was Walter Freeman who conducted 3,500 lobotomies between 1936 and his last one in 1967. See The Lobotomist, a PBS Documentary.

In the end, CIA officials decided against ice pick lobotomy, citing surgical risk, “brain damage could be extensive. . . and if discovered that the CIA was mutilating people’s brains for the sake of national security, the information could exploited as a propaganda weapon.” (Acid Dreams, excerpt)


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