With medical progress, the lobotomy definition has developed over time into something that strikes fear into the hearts of many after initially offering hope. The current lobotomy definition remains unchanged in that it describes a medical procedure that involves cutting the frontal lobe of a patient’s brain to interrupt neural communication and potentially change mental abilities and personalities. However, lobotomies are largely a treatment of the past and this type of surgery has grown to have negative connotations. Although some patients are reported to have shown improvements, others appeared unchanged or worsened.
In the 1940s and 1950s, lobotomy was a type of surgery that was rapidly growing in popularity and was being performed to relieve various mental disorders. Then there was a shift in popular opinion and lobotomies became the stuff of fear and fiction.
In real life, side effects of lobotomy surgery came to be feared because the purpose was to fundamentally change a person’s thought process and personality. The idea that lobotomy could come with a loss of self was disturbing to many. Some patients who underwent lobotomies were reported to have achieved the desired results and gained calmer demeanors. But some lobotomy patients also appeared clumsy and unable to focus. In some cases, patients were reported to have suffered losses in the abilities to control their bodily functions, use social skills and think like adults.
Lobotomies portrayed in fiction expressed this concern of loss. The characters in Janet Frame’s novel “Faces in the Water” in 1961 and Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1962 are reflections of the times in that they supported the lobotomy definition of being the surgery every mental patient feared.
Ultimately, the introduction of new medicines for psychiatric treatments in the 1950s and the changing perceptions of the surgery helped make the lobotomy definition into one of a largely obsolete procedure that is no longer used as an attempt to calm patients down or cure them of mental illnesses. In fact, new and better treatments coupled with the imprecise nature of the surgery and possibility of negative results caused the lobotomy to be banned in many areas worldwide by the 1970s.
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