How Lobotomies Work

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Josh Clark: Hey. And welcome to the podcast. It's called Stuff You Should Know. It's Josh and Chuck [inaudible] in Long Beach together. Now you know you're in trouble. What's up, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: How long have you been sitting on that one for the week? That's good.

Josh Clark: Thanks. Thank you, Chuck. How you doing?

Chuck Bryant: I'm well, sir. You?

Josh Clark: Pretty good. I'm feeling great, actually, Chuck. I am glad to be alive. Yeah. So, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Yes?

Josh Clark: I think this could arguably pan out to be our greatest podcast ever.

Chuck Bryant: You just jinxed us.

Josh Clark: No. I really don't think so. Chuck did the cheek thing twice before this one.

Chuck Bryant: True.

Josh Clark: He was kind enough to do it a second time, and I don't think we've ever had a topic that Chuck and I were more intensely interested in than this one.

Chuck Bryant: I know. It kinda just came out of nowhere, and it's really - well, not out of nowhere because it's historical, but in our eyes out of nowhere.

Josh Clark: Which if you -

Chuck Bryant: Funny I say in our eyes.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Little fore shadowing from Charles Bryant!

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: Nice one, Chuck. If you will get off of LOL Cats for a second and go check your iTunes, you'll find that the title of this one is How Lobotomies Work.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And that's what we're gonna be talking about are lobotomies.

Chuck Bryant: So fascinating.

Josh Clark: It really is. Lobotomies kind of exist in this little segment of 20th century culture, medical madness, I guess you could say. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Right. And pop culture because you still hear it being thrown around, like, boy, somebody lobotomize me. Scramble my brain, but it's kind of exactly the way it happened.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Yeah. So Chuck, you're a lover of great cinema. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Of course.

Josh Clark: Of course, you've seen One Flew over the Coo Coo's Nest. Right?

Chuck Bryant: I have a poster.

Josh Clark: You do?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, a good one.

Josh Clark: Yeah. The one of Jack Nichols, him laughing with the watch cap on!

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's a good one. So of course, you remember the - the pivotal scene of the movie where McMurphy is lobotomized for being unruly. He tries to kill Nurse Hatchet because -

Chuck Bryant: Awful. Nurse Ratchet.

Josh Clark: Nurse Ratchet - Hatchet, same thing.

Chuck Bryant: That was a Freudian slip right there.

Josh Clark: It was.

Chuck Bryant: She was a Hatchet.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So -

Chuck Bryant: Well, she was mean and -

Josh Clark: No. I'm totally with you. It was the Freudian slip part that got me. I had like eight jokes going in my head at once and I was like can't say that, can't say that, can't say that, so yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Like the Terminator.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Scanning for possible responses.

Josh Clark: That's exactly right, yeah. So yeah, so he tries to kill Nurse Ratchet because she was a terrible nurse and kinda evil.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Very evil.

Josh Clark: And so, he gets lobotomized, and they don't show the procedure. Don't worry if you ever want to know what one was like. We're going to go into grisly detail in a minute.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And he comes out just kinda this drooling imbecile.

Chuck Bryant: Awful.

Josh Clark: Which I have to remind everybody was actually a medical term before it was -

Chuck Bryant: Imbecile was?

Josh Clark: Imbecile more on an id iot. We're all degrees of mental retardation.

Chuck Bryant: Really? Wow.

Josh Clark: Uh-huh. Isn't that weird?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Well, of course, that's the same time that people were performing lobotomies, so it was - seems like very archaic even though it wasn't that long ago.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, let's set the scene. Okay?

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: All right. So we're talking in the 1930's.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And the 1930's were a terrible time to be nuts. Basically, you got locked up in a straightjacket to keep you from eating your own feces or throwing it at orderlies or doing anything really crazy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And that was about it.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: They had certain - certain techniques, like shock therapy. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: What do they use?

Chuck Bryant: They still use shock therapy here and there, actually.

Josh Clark: Uh-huh. Well, you have electroconvulsive therapy.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Right.

Josh Clark: And you had - apparently, they also used to use insulin.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: Insulin. Right? We know how bad that is from - I can't remember - one of our aging podcasts. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And they would basically inject a hefty dose of insulin into a patient to - you okay, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I thought my paper rustling was going to get the wrath of Jerry.

Josh Clark: They - they know we use crypt sheets, Buddy.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: So they inject the patient with a hefty dose of insulin and would basically shock their system, possibly causing convulsions. There was another drug -

Chuck Bryant: Was this just to subdue them?

Josh Clark: Hold on. I'm getting to that.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: This is the craziest part. This was - this was the grasp that medical science had on mental illness at the time.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: There was another drug called, Metrazol, which was a respiratory and circulatory stimulant, and in hefty doses, it, too, produced shock and convulsions.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: So if you'll notice, all three of these produced convulsions. It was shock therapy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And the reason that they did that was because there was a suspicion that there was a link between epilepsy, convulsions, and mental illness and that if you had one you couldn't have the other.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So by producing convulsions, they thought that they were treating mental illness.

Chuck Bryant: Wow. Unbelievable!

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So you could have just had epilepsy and they would sit you in the electroconvulsive shock therapy chair and - to treat you.

Josh Clark: Yeah. They'd stick a little paddle in your mouth and turn on the juice.

Chuck Bryant: I tell you what, man, I - like I sometimes look back and say, boy, the 1950's, that would have been cool to live back then but then hear stories like this, and you kinda forget about the downside.

Josh Clark: Yeah. ECT is definitely one of the downsides of this era. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: All right. So another problem with this was that the mental - mental care - wow.

Chuck Bryant: Have you had a lobotomy?

Josh Clark: I had a little bit of one. Yeah. No. I had some Metrazol earlier. I'm all jacked up.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. Nuts.

Josh Clark: The - the - the state of mental hospitals in the US in the - in the '30s and '40s was that they were overcrowded.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Because, I mean, if you can't treat anybody, really, you can't treat their mental illness. Once they come in, they're in.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Yeah.

Josh Clark: Right?

Chuck Bryant: And they wanted docile patients. They wanted people that didn't cause trouble. And really, any way that they could get there was kind of okay at the time.

Josh Clark: And this - right - and this was also before drug therapy was created.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So in the '30s, 1936, this new procedure comes about.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Well, 1935.

Josh Clark: Oh, was it '35? I thought it was '36.

Chuck Bryant: In Portugal, is that what you're talking about?

Josh Clark: 1935, you're right. Yeah, sorry about that! Go ahead.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. That was Dr. Antonio Egas Moneece -

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: - and Dr. Almida Lima in Portugal performed the first lobotomies by drilling holes into the skull on either side of the prefrontal cortex and injecting alcohol in there to destroy the fibers that connected it.

Josh Clark: Okay. So - and this was actually based on an earlier study from 1933 by a couple of Yale researchers who removed the prefrontal cortexes from a pair of monkeys and then -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Lucy and - who was the other one?

Josh Clark: Binky, we'll say.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. Lucy and Binky!

Josh Clark: Yeah. These two monkeys had their prefrontal cortexes removed, and the researchers found that they could still - they still had intellect, but they were lacking the emotion that led to violent outbursts when they didn't get their way.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Becky, by the way! Close.

Josh Clark: I like Binky better. Can we stay with Binky?

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Okay. So the - the - Dr. - oh, the Portuguese guy?

Chuck Bryant: Fulton and Carlisle. Oh, no, you're going back to Portugal?

Josh Clark: Yeah. Dr. Moneece -

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: - saw Fulton present - one of the Yale researchers saw Fulton present his findings and he thought, huh, my mental patients act like monkeys, you know, violent outburst s, when they don't, you know, when they see things that aren't really there. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Right. So let me get my hands on a cadaver and see what I can - see what I can work out with the brain.

Josh Clark: Right. So this early - this early - it was called the prefrontal lobotomy - started out by, like you said, drilling holes in the skull and adding alcohol. And the whole reason why, Chuck - the prefrontal cortex? Why the frontal lobe? What's so important about that?

Chuck Bryant: Well, the - the prefrontal lobe or cortex, Josh, has a number of complex functions, called executive functions, is what they're known as. We're talking high-level decision-making, planning, reasoning, understanding, personality, personal expression, that kind of thing.

Josh Clark: Right. So basically, you're personality, the way you create things, the way you see the world, and how you react to the world, e.g. emotions, this is all - this is all generated here.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Right.

Josh Clark: It - it originates in the prefrontal cortex.

Chuck Bryant: Yes. And you are stabbing the front of your head right now, as you speak, your forehead.

Josh Clark: Yes. Thank you. Thanks, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: And so, that, as we all know, though, the brain is connected. It's all connected together sending and receiving signals like mass email. And so, what you have here, you've got two types of matter, gray and white matter. Gray matter includes neurons and brain cells and blood vessels and things like that. White matter is axons and nerve fibers, and they connect the gray matter and carry messages with electric impulses. So -

Josh Clark: Well, the gray matter is where these impulses are generated.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And the white matter translates them or transfers them.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, transmits.

Josh Clark: Transmits.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: One of the trans.

Chuck Bryant: So a lobotomy, what that does is it's intended to sever the white matter between the different areas of gray matter, thus, interrupting the - the transmission, essentially.

Josh Clark: Well - right. And the problem with Dr. Moneece's technique, the early technique using alcohol, is like you said, the brain's all connected. And alcohol, being a liquid, is kinda hard to keep in one place.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So it started to go and destroy other areas of the brain. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Not a very good idea.

Josh Clark: But he was on to something. He - he - he was on to something by destroying the white matter. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: So instead, he decided to be a little more precise, and he - he kept with the hole drilling method -

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh. [Inaudible]

Josh Clark: - which is actually based on an ancient - ancient method of brain surgery called trepanation.

Chuck Bryant: Right, which actually, what - gosh, are we - I'm gonna be in trouble here. We had a fan write in and - and suggest trepanation, and that's what got me on lobotomies in the first place, and I apologize. So if you're out there listening, this -

Josh Clark: Oh, you don't remember the fan's name?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Thank you, nameless fan, we love you.

Chuck Bryant: This is for you. Binky. Thanks, Binky.

Josh Clark: Or Becky. Yeah. And actually, in the article, How Lobotomies Work, there's a cool relief from a Hieronymus Bosch painting of some early physician trepanning a patient. And he's got like a little segment of the skull lifted off and the brain's exposed, and he's just poking around in there. But okay, so he's still - Dr. Moneece is still using the drilling method.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: But now he's inserting instruments in there.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And he inserted this one that sounded like - it was a handle with a little loopy wire that comes out, but it retracts.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Lucitum?

Josh Clark: Yes. So when you - when you push down the back of it, the loop extends out. And then, you can pull it in and just basically, you remove hunks of prefrontal cortex.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, of white matter.

Josh Clark: Right. And that's exactly what he did.

Chuck Bryant: Hopefully white matter.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you would think. And it was successful.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Well, yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: To - to, again, to varying degrees.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And maybe not again, because I think that's the first time we said that, but yeah, the lobotomy was successful to varying degrees.

Chuck Bryant: Very varying degrees.

Josh Clark: But there was this guy who went and saw Dr. Moneece perform one of these.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. This is where it gets good.

Josh Clark: And this guy was named, Dr. Walter Freeman. And for probably about, what, 50,000 people in the US alone, this meeting between these two men was the worst thing that ever happened in the history of humanity.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Because that's about how many people were lobotomized between - for about - over about a seven-year period in the US.

Josh Clark: Was it just seven years?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, '49 to '56.

Josh Clark: Wow. Wow. Okay.

Chuck Bryant: So heavy work.

Josh Clark: So then there was many, many more, actually, but yeah, the - Dr. Walter Freeman became an immediate evangelist, he was called, for lobotomies.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: He - he tried Moneece's technique with a partner and did it successfully for a while, but the problem is is it was still surgery.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It required a surgeon to do it.

Chuck Bryant: Operating room.

Josh Clark: Right. And Freeman was actually not a neurosurgeon. He was a neurologist.

Chuck Bryant: Right. And it required anesthetic.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So there - there were some - some drawbacks to it in Freeman's opinion.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Expense being one of them, time, and resources!

Josh Clark: Uh-huh. So he created something that was a lot handier, a lot easier, and a lot quicker, and that is what we call the trans orbital, or ice pick lobotomy.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Go Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Can I say what this is?

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: He determined that if you took something, which is technically called an orbital clasp, but it really looks sort of like an ice pick.

Josh Clark: You said it yesterday on our webcast. It's - it's an ice pick.

Chuck Bryant: It's an ice pick.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Call it a rose by any other name, exactly. So you put this ice pick over - over the eyeball but under the bone there. What's that called? What's the bone called?

Josh Clark: Between the eyeball and the eyelid.

Chuck Bryant: The eyeball and the eyelid.

Josh Clark: Into the back of the orbital bone.

Chuck Bryant: Right. So once you get to the back of the orbital bone, there's a little resistance there because it's bone. And so, enter a little silver hammer, and so, he just tinks on that thing until it cracks through. And then, he's got a pretty clean passageway to the frontal cortex.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And so, you've got an ice pick sticking out of your eye. He - he scrambles it up a little bit once it's in there, and then he does the same thing on the other side.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And -

Chuck Bryant: And ten minutes later, you're lobotomized, literally.

Josh Clark: So he'd do both sides. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: He got kinda good at this.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Dr. Freeman got, really, I guess you could say good at this, or at least, very fast. In one two-week period in West Virginia, he performed lobotomies on 228 people. And in one day, he performed lobotomies on 25 patients. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: In one day.

Chuck Bryant: In one day.

Josh Clark: So he's just basically bringing them in and sending them out.

Chuck Bryant: He's exactly doing that, actually. I read an interview with one of his assistants at the time, and he said he would literally not take breaks. As the patient left, another one would be brought in. Ten minutes later, boom, and I don't even think we mentioned yet, he - before he does this, he doesn't use anesthetic. He knocks them out with electroshock.

Josh Clark: Right. So it's making use of two extremely primitive and violent techniques. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Big time, and the result was, like we said, varied. I mean, it ranged anywhere from people being satisfied and seemingly successful, like highly emotional people, suicidal, all of a sudden being more docile and not so worried to - to death and people rendered vegetables, literally, so.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, Dr. -

Chuck Bryant: It was all over the map.

Josh Clark: Dr. Freeman actually referred to lobotomies informally as soul surgery.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I hate that.

Josh Clark: The reason why is because he was basically removing what kinda - what makes us human. People could still function. Under a successful lobotomy, people could still function. They could still talk, but they weren't - they weren't doing anything. They weren't bringing anything to the table. There was no reason for them to exist so much anymore, for the most part.

Chuck Bryant: It was personality surgery.

Josh Clark: Exactly right.

Chuck Bryant: It was crazy.

Josh Clark: And he would - he did it, again, so fast, so often and he had a touch of a showman to him.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: That he basically did - he had a lobotomobile, in which he performed demonstrations. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: He toured the country.

Chuck Bryant: He did.

Josh Clark: Went all over the place. I think he ended up doing - estimates run from 2,000 to 5,000 between 1946 and 1967, trans orbital lobotomies, in 23 states in the US. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Right. He performed them with both hands. He would stick the ice picks in with both hands at once to add a little flair and showmanship.

Josh Clark: But - yeah, so he was basically performing shows, lobotomy shows. And not everybody reacted well to these.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Seasoned surgeons, who had seen tons of gore and blood and horrible things in their lifetimes, would vomit watching these things. Some had to leave. There was a - a - a nurse, whose account I read of watching a lobotomy, said the - when he moved the ice picks back and forth, it made the sound of tearing cloth.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Later on, in the USSR, which actually banned lobotomies in, I think, 1950?

Chuck Bryant: '53, I think.

Josh Clark: 1953?

Chuck Bryant: Before we did, which was - is embarrassing.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, 14 years before we did. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah. A - a physician named Nicholae Orsorinski?

Chuck Bryant: Orsoreski?

Josh Clark: Orsoreski. Thanks, dude.

Chuck Bryant: O'Soreski.

Josh Clark: O'Soreski. He called - he said that lobotomies violate the principles of humanity and change an insane person into an idiot. Again, remember a medical term, at the time.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: So there - I imagine that there was something that affected you. Were you a - a human being, like a real human being, seeing this, this rough, violent misguided or unguided procedure being performed that it would affect you in some way, like some very primal part of you would say that's not supposed to happen.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Plus, there was no official scientific basis for this. It was basically, hey, look at the result in some cases.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: That is what they were kinda basing this whole thing on.

Josh Clark: And - and also as we were saying about Freeman being a showman and doing it so fast, there was one visit to a mental institution in Iowa. And I don't remember what year it was, but Freeman killed three people in one visit.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And one of the people - this is so awful - he was doing his little show off thing with the two picks at once, instead of, as his own procedure dictated, one, and then the other side.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: He - he was doing two picks at once, so the patient's on the table, with two ice picks sticking out of his eyes. And Freeman says, "I'm gonna take a photo of this," steps back to take a photo. One of the ice picks slips and kills the patient instantly.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So apparently, Freeman was said to have basically just packed up right then and moved on to the next place without missing a beat or saying, "Geez that stinks."

Chuck Bryant: Right, packed up the lobotomobile.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and hit the road.

Chuck Bryant: You know one person he lobotomized, Josh?

Josh Clark: I know you do.

Chuck Bryant: He lobotomized John F. Kennedy's sister, Rosemary.

Josh Clark: Yep.

Chuck Bryant: Dr. Freeman did. In 1941, Rosemary was 23 years old. And - and early on in her childhood, she was shy and easygoing, they say. But as a teenager, shocker, she became rebellious and moody, which - and that's what struck me in a lot of these cases is so many of them were just normal human emotions, like anything from post partum depression to a overactive child. It's just unbelievable.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: So she was lobotomized, and afterward was rendered, basically, she couldn't speak. She had the mental capacity of an infant, couldn't control her bodily functions, and the Kennedy family, basically fr om that point on said that she was mentally retarded, which they claim that she may have been before, but who knows?

Josh Clark: You wanna talk about another guy?

Chuck Bryant: Howie?

Josh Clark: Chuck and I have a shared hero.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: He is an indomitable 350-pound, 6'3" bus driver, who has this gentle, tender personality. And his name is Howard Dully. And at the age of 12, Howard Dully met Dr. Freeman under unfortunate circumstances, meaning Dr. Freeman had a couple of ice picks on him when they met.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And Howard ended up under Freeman's care because of his stepmother. Right, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. He - it was kinda the classic story. The father gets remarried to a stepmother who is not very patient and understanding with her son that sounded like - you know, sounded like he may have been a little rambunctious, but what 12-year-old boy isn't? I think you have some good notes, actual notes from the case.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, in - in Freeman's notes, that Dully turned up later - and we should say, Howard Dully created this great radio piece that's on NPR. You can actually find by typing in My Lobotomy in Google. I think it's the first thing that comes up.

Chuck Bryant: Right. It's really good.

Josh Clark: It's one of the most amazing things you've ever heard where he just goes and retraces the steps of his lobotomy that he got when he was 12 and tries to get to the bottom of what happened.

Chuck Bryant: Right. We typically don't recommend people go listen to other things that - that's not us, but that's how good it is.

Josh Clark: Right. Yeah. Right. Yeah, exactly. It is that good. It's way better than us, actually.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: But he finds Dr. Freeman's notes on his case. And apparently, his stepmother pled her case to get him lobotomized by pointing out that he daydreams a lot, and when you ask him what he's daydreaming about, he says, "I don't know."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: He doesn't want to go to bed, and when he does, he sleeps well.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And my personal favorite, he turns on the lights in rooms when there's broad daylight streaming in.

Chuck Bryant: Unbelievable.

Josh Clark: I know. That kid deserves a lobotomy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But one of the things and I think one of the reasons why you and I both look up to Howard Dully was because he has wondered his whole life how different would he be?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Like I lived hard and fast as a younger man. Right? And I've often wondered -

Chuck Bryant: Not like your calm days now?

Josh Clark: Right. Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Your puritanical days.

Josh Clark: Actually way, way harder and faster. So but I've often wondered how much sharper would I be had I not lived like that?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: This was my own doing. It was my own choosing.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: Howard Dully had to think that same thing, like, is there something wrong with me, is there a part of me missing, through no choice or fault of his own. We should also say that when Howard's stepmother found that he was not a vegetable, she just got him out of the house and he became a ward of the state.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. [Inaudible] institution anyway!

Josh Clark: [Inaudible] lady.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So again, in the end he finds there really isn't something wrong with him, that he's a pretty terrific person as - as it turned out, lobotomy or not.

Chuck Bryant: Right. It took him a long time, though. I mean, he battled addiction and various forms of mental illness his whole life after this. And I think going - this special that aired and he wrote a book and went and talked to his father. After 40 years he actually finally spoke to his dad about it, and that seems to have been the thing to get him over the edge to not feeling like a freak anymore, as he called it.

Josh Clark: Yeah. You can actually hear him working it out in My Lobotomy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. That big, deep voice!

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: He sounds kinda like Sam - not Sam Shepherd, Sam - what's the guy from The Big Lebowski?

Josh Clark: Sam Elliot.

Chuck Bryant: Sam Elliot.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's what he reminded me of.

Josh Clark: The dude.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. He also had that big mustache, too, sorta like Sam Elliot.

Josh Clark: Yeah. That handle bar biker mustac he.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So Chuck, whatever happened to lobotomies? Where - why did they go the way of the dinosaur or disco?

Chuck Bryant: Well, a couple of reasons, I mean, one, there was a lot of gaining steam with the criticism of it because they found that they were lobotomizing criminals. They were lobotomizing soldiers from World War II because -

Josh Clark: Criminals against their will, sometimes.

Chuck Bryant: Right. But they would lobotomize soldiers because hospitals were overcrowded.

Josh Clark: Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant: Veterans.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Unbelievable.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And so that - that was kinda gaining steam, and then, the introduction of Thorazine, basically, was kinda what started it all.

Josh Clark: Thorazine changed everything. I believe that somebody said that Thorazine was to the treatment of schizophrenia that insulin - or I'm sorry, that Penicillin was to the treatment of infectious diseases.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Which is a pretty big comparison?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, big time.

Josh Clark: So Thorazine was developed in 1950, and as it began to - to fall into widespread use, lobotomies kind of fell out of widespread use. And Dr. Freeman himself, he - he had one last one, one last lobotomy, in 1967. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. He killed a woman with a - of a brain hemorrhage after the third try, I think on her.

Josh Clark: This was her third lobotomy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Wow.

Josh Clark: And she wasn't just some mental patient in Iowa. This is a housewife. And when she died of a - I believe a hemorrhage after the procedure, that third procedure, that was it. He was banned from surgery, performing any kinda surgery from that point on and actually spent the rest of his days until he died in 1972 traveling the country in a camper, which I wonder -

Chuck Bryant: Still kinda preaching it.Josh Clark: - if it was his lobotomobile.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I don't know.

Josh Clark: He wasn't pitching it. He was actually going around trying to find - he was visiting old patients -

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Cla rk: - to prove that he had done good.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And he had done some good in a couple of - of cases, in several cases, I imagine. His first one was a woman - I can't remember her first name, but it was Ionesco.Chuck Bryant: Yeah.Josh Clark: And she - she was violently suicidal, as described by her daughter, and afterwards, she went on to - to live a happy, fulfilled life.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. But you know, every - every successful case I read about they would say things like, "They weren't violently suicidal anymore, and they were just kinda happy," but it still seemed to be that lights are on but no one's home thing, like the couple, the married couple.Josh Clark: Mary and Robert Palmer.Chuck Bryant: Yeah. The married couple was - the husband had his wife lobotomized because she was so emotional, and she took pills.

Josh Clark: She was suicidal as well.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And she says that she was happy as a clam, and he was satisfied. He said that she came home and she never caused any more trouble, and she was just happy. And she could still -

Josh Clark: [Inaudible] backtalk.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. She could still cook and clean and do all the things she could do before. And she agreed, "I just haven't been worried about things since then." And she was in her '80s, but you read that and emotions are normal. Mood swings are normal. It's -

Josh Clark: Agreed, but I do - I do think that there is a certain threshold. And if you're violently suicidal, maybe a lobotomy was a better option.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. But I also wanna know what the criteria for all this was back then.

Josh Clark: There wasn't any.

Chuck Bryant: So.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So -

Chuck Bryant: Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Josh Clark: But one of the most unsettling things - one of the most unsettling things that I - I found from this article is that lobotomies are still performed today.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, in England. Right?

Josh Clark: The UK is one of a few countries where it's - it's no longer called lobotomies because lobotomy has such a horrible stigma attached to it.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And for good reason.

Chuck Bryant: Neurosurgery for a Mental Disorder.

Josh Clark: NMD.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And today, apparently, they use MRIs as guides to be more precise, but pretty much, this type of surgery, psychosurgery, as it's called, is pretty much the same thing. It's destroying white matter connections.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And you're removing people's emotional cells.

Chuck Bryant: Right. I mean, there may be something to - to that, but certainly, it was so nonspecific and nontechnical to jam ice picks and - and just blindly move them back and forth that no wonder there was all kinds of results.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Wow. So Chuck, we are both kinda nuts and I'm really glad it's not like 1946 because we'd be in big trouble.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. Yeah. My wife, Emily and I, would both be on the lobotomy table, I think.

Josh Clark: I'd drive you to see Freeman.

Chuck Bryant: Thanks. Sure. I appreciate that.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, that's it. That's it for lobotomies, buddy.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I encourage people to go out and listen to Howard Dully's radio show there. It's really great.

Josh Clark: Okay. Hopefully, you guys enjoyed this one. You can read all about lobotomies on You know what to do, you know, handy search bar, etc. And Chuck, let's - let's talk some audible stuff, shall we?

Chuck Bryant: Our sponsor, Hit it.

Josh Clark: Okay. So if everyone goes to, and sign up to get one free download from's 50,000-plus titles of audio books, standup comedy, spoken word, speeches, pretty much anything you can listen to is right there.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: And I was on there browsing just this morning, and I found one of my all-time favorite books, 1491 by Charles Mann.

Chuck Bryant: Good one.

Josh Clark: Great one.

Chuck Bryant: I never read that.

Josh Clark: Mann runs around the Americas, basically, to archaeological sites and gets the scoop on the most recent findings and finds that there were way more people in the Americas before Columbus showed up than we realize.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: And yeah, there was a lag between the arrival of Columbus to Hispaniola and the - the second wave that followed within the next 50 years. The second wave found that this - that it was virgin territory. There was almost no one there. It turns out that's because about 100 million people died of smallpox from Columbus' first arrival between then and the second wave.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: It's fascinating stuff.

Chuck Bryant: That's a mini-sode right there. You just did one.

Josh Clark: Well, maybe we'll do a bigger-sode on it.

Chuck Bryant: A bigger-sode?

Josh Clark: Yeah. What about you? You been on?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I'm gonna recommend just quickly Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report.

Josh Clark: Nice. Oh, I saw his portrait, his national gallery portrait at the Smithsonian recently. It was awesome.

Chuck Bryant: With his familiar scowl.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I love that guy. So yeah, he has a very popular book that he reads himself called, I Am an American and So Can You. And that's all I need to say about that.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It's hysterical.

Josh Clark: Nice, Chuck. So you can get either one of those titles for free by going to and signing up. And that is audible right there, baby.

Chuck Bryant: Listener mail.

Josh Clark: Let's do listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Let's do it. Josh, I'm just gonna call this - we got a lot of great feedback for the high fructose corn syrup.Josh Clark: Yeah. Yeah. I was happy about that.

Chuck Bryant: So much so that we're gonna have probably like three podcasts in a row where we're gonna be reading some of that mail. [Inaudible]

Josh Clark: Really? You think really we should?

Chuck Bryant: I can bring back [inaudible]. Okay. All right. So I'm just gonna call it intelligent listener mail because Max is a smart guy and I like these most of all. "I'm a graduating senior in the business college, but when I'm not in class or listening to podcasts, I almost always enjoy listening to philosophy. It's more or less my passion, and more specifically, I'm interested in world religion, metaphysical theory, and man's relationship to nature and the universe." So this guy is obviously smarter than we are.

Josh Clark: Heavy.

Chuck Bryant: "To say that fructose corn syrup or any other manmade chemical compound does not occur naturally, you're speaking with a basic assumption that man is something different than nature. Unfortunately, for those who can find themselves above nature in important or authority, this is not the case. It's our Western culture and religion that strengthens this point of view. Man didn't plop into nature as a separate and flawed phenomenon in a stupid, natural universe. Man came out of nature. Man is nature. Man is the universe. To borrow a quote from my favorite philosopher, Allen Watts, 'In your seeing, your hearing, your talking, your thinking, your moving, you express that which is, which moves the sun and other stars. So to perceive yourself as something different is only an inability to identify yourself with the cosmos.' So Josh, man's manipulation of chemical compounds is really the world's manipulation of itself, or perhaps the universe manipulating itself, and that is certainly a natural occurrence." Boom.

Josh Clark: And that is what happens when I off handedly say something is manmade.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Nice. Well, what's the guy's name?

Chuck Bryant: Max.

Josh Clark: Thanks, Max.

Chuck Bryant: And I dig philosophy, too, so I thought it was kinda cool.

Josh Clark: We dig you, Max, and we really dig anybody who sends us something, especially if it's as intelligent as that. If you wanna show off your ginormous brain, send us an email to For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit