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Lobotomy and psychosurgery

During the 1970s Dr. Breggin began his reform work by organizing an international campaign to stop the resurgence of lobotomy and other psychosurgery. For a period of several years, most of his time was spent on this campaign, which led to the creation of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. The best summary of this effort can be found in his book, co-authored with Ginger Breggin, The War Against Children of Color.

Dr. Breggin distributed ten thousand copies of his article in the Congressional Record, which was copied and distributed in even greater numbers by other reformers around the world.

A key event occurred in 1973 at a trial in Detroit, Kaimowitz v. Department of Mental Health, in which a three-judge panel responded to an injunction by Gabe Kaimowitz to stop experimental psychosurgery at the state hospital. The court adopted Dr. Breggin’s expert testimony at the trial and stopped the psychosurgery projects. Dr. Breggin’s article “Psychosurgery for political purposes” provides the best description of the Kaimowitz victory. This court decision — as well as Dr. Breggin’s media appearances, publications, lectures and lobbying in the U.S. Congress — resulted in state hospitals throughout the nation giving up the practice.

Among other victories aimed at stopping psychosurgery, Dr. Breggin wrote Congressional legislation aimed at ending federal funding of psychosurgery and successfully lobbied Congress for the creation of the Psychosurgery Commission, which declared the treatment experimental. Eventually most psychosurgery projects were stopped not only in state hospitals, but also at NIH, VA hospitals and university medical centers.

In June 2002 Dr. Breggin was the psychiatric expert in a psychosurgery case against the Cleveland Clinic that ended with a jury verdict of $7.5 million. After this, the Cleveland Clinic stopped performing the operation. Psychosurgery projects continue to be conducted at Harvard and Brown, but at few if any other places in the United States.

Psychosurgery (1973)

Journal of the American Medical Association, 226(9) 1121. To the Editor. THE JOURNAL (225:916, 1973) described me as “Undoubtedly the one person most responsible for politicizing psychosurgery ….” In this and a succeeding article (225:1035, 1973), the writer defends lobotomists and psychosurgeons and promotes their work as pure science unhappily corrupted by political attacks. Nothing […]

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The second wave of psychosurgery (1973)

M/H (Mental Health) 57:10-13. LOBOTOMY and psychosurgery are upon us again! In Philadelphia a black man dies of an overdose of heroin, and a reporter notices peculiar scars on his head. A portion of his brain has been burned out in an experimental attempt to cure his addiction. The neurosurgeon is located by the reporter […]

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