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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Ice Pick Lobotomy

Comments (9)

NPR had an emotionally devastating segment on the story of the Transorbital (or “Ice Pick”) Lobotomy created by Dr. Walter Freeman in 1946.  It was told by Howard Dully, who received an Ice Pick Lobotomy by Freeman in 1960 when Dully was 12 years old. 

In Dully’s words: “If you saw me you’d never know I’d had a lobotomy. The only thing you’d notice is that I’m very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I’ve always felt different — wondered if something’s missing from my soul. I have no memory of the operation, and never had the courage to ask my family about it. So two years ago I set out on a journey to learn everything I could about my lobotomy.”

I remember joking about lobotomies as a kid, but I have never really thought hard about them.  I doubt I’ll joke about them again after listening to this story.

  • Dave Jilk

    At the time, lobotomies were a breakthrough treatment for people who were mentally ill and violent or suicidal. Compared with their existing condition, the lobotomy was in many cases an improvement. Like most medical procedures, it became over-prescribed and was applied to much less severe mental illness and even questionable mental illnesses, and that was wrong.

    Note that there are plenty of treatments and medications that are overprescribed today — Vioxx, Ritalin, and Prozac come to mind (note that the last two are for mental issues). Any many treatments are painful and horrible — like chemotherapy — but they are all we have. Hippocampectomies are still performed as a last resort for severe epileptic patients (but we know enough now to try to limit the procedure to one hemisphere, so that most function is not lost).

  • http://www.ueland.com Chris Ueland

    I saw this on CNN on Friday. Crazy!

    –Chris

  • Howard Dully

    When I received my lobotomy it was no longer a “breakthrough treatment” there were pills available in 1955. Pills that could be discontinued unlike the Trans-orbital lobotomy that I received in 1961.
    I have collaborated on a book with Charles Fleming and we have sold it to Crown Publishing (Random House) it is suppose to be released in the fall of 2007. My story goes a lot deeper than the 22 minutes on NPR or any of the newspaper and magazine articles.

    But keep listening
    Howard

  • John

    Horrifying!

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