Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Back again

This Magazine Staff has picked up on This Magazine’s January/February cover story, Nightmare neurosurgery: The curious comeback of psychiatry’s scariest procedure. Full content of the January/February issue will soon be online, but keen-eyed readers may already have found the cover story, by Danielle Egan.
Here’s an excerpt from the Utne story:
In an article published by This Magazine, author Danielle Egan writes that the lobotomy — also known as psychosurgery — was introduced in the 1930s, re-emerged in the 1970s, and is once again in vogue. And just as the procedure has reappeared, so has the accompanying controversy.
The serious side-effects — zombie-like apathy, aggressiveness, depression, fatigue — remain the same, as do the fault lines that define the medical community’s opinion of the procedure. Proponents hold fast to the idea that the source of mental illness is in the organic structure of the brain and can be cut out. Skeptics say mental illness can be traced to psychological trauma in a patient’s past and argue that behavioral therapy is superior to surgical solutions, which are both invasive and scientifically suspect.
Egan is a skeptic, but does not dismiss the psychological devastation that drives both doctors and patients to turn to radical measures. What most concerns her is that patients are not fully apprised of the operation’s risks and that in some cases doctors are forsaking their Hippocratic Oath in the name of expedience.

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