Psychosurgery is the destruction of normal brain tissue for the purpose of treating psychiatric disorders or for the control of emotions and behavior. It does not include operations, such as those for Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, where an id entifiable physical abnormality in the brain is causing a known physical disorder.
Lobotomy and other psychosurgeries merit special attention because, as the prototype of brain-damaging therapeutics, they can shed light on the clinical effects of other brain-disabling treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and major tranquilizers. Despite the paucity of active practitioners and advocates of psychosurgery, many psychiatric authorities have condoned this treatment precisely because the principles that find their extreme expression in lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery also find more subtle expression in all the major somatic treatments in psychiatry.
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.
Articles on lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery