ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The Lobotomist: A review

A new PBS documentary tells the troubled story of a doctor who performed nearly 3,000 lobotomies

Jonathan Scheff
First, physician Walter Freeman would peel open the patient's eyelid and insert an ice pick between the eyeball and the lid. He would tap the ice pick with a surgical hammer - or even a carpenter's mallet, if he was performing for a crowd and wanted to shock them - and break through the orbital cavity of the eye to the prefrontal lobe. He would wiggle the ice pick to sever the frontal lobes, then remove the ice pick. The lobotomy was complete.The Lobotomist, a new PBS documentary written and co-directed by Barak Goodman, explores this surgical method developed by Walter Freeman to treat the mentally ill.In 1936, Walter Freeman stumbled upon a study by Portuguese neurosurgeon Egas Moniz, who cored into the brains of mentally ill patients and removed small portions from the frontal lobe. Moniz observed a positive change in his patients' behavior, although he did...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT