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Robert Whitaker's Mad In America

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Mad in America, by Robert Whitaker, details the history of the mental illness treatments in our country, including one of the most infamous, the lobotomy. The brain altering procedure was widely praised by medical professionals at the time it was popular in the 1930s through 1950s (Whitaker, 2002). Today, Americans generally view the lobotomy as a cruel, ineffective treatment. Closer examination reveals that the operation was ineffective, unfounded, and inhumane. (Whitaker, 2002). The lobotomy was a surgical procedure that evolved over time. The main purpose of the method was to damage the frontal lobe of the brain (Whitaker, 2002). The first type was the prefrontal lobotomy, which was first performed in humans in 1935 (Whitaker, 2002). …show more content…
One understanding for the location of the surgery was that the frontal lobes are the part of the brain that set us apart from other animals and allow for “judgement, comparison, reflection, invention and above all the faculty of abstraction” (Whitaker, 2002, p. 108). Two types of research that supported the human lobotomy, were animal research and frontal lobe injuries in World War I (Whitaker, 2002). The prefrontal lobotomy was performed in chimps and one research report indicated that a chimp who previously showed aggression, presented a calm demeanor after the surgery (Whitaker, 2002). After World War I, doctors were studying an influx of prefrontal lobe injuries and found that patients were “childish and apathetic, lost their capacity to plan ahead, and could not make sound judgments”, without major loss of intelligent functioning (Whitaker, 2002, p. 109). This research lead doctors to believe that this procedure would be ideal for their mental patients (Whitaker, 2002). It was believed that the lobotomy could treat anxiety, depression, schizophrenic symptoms, and many other mental disorders by allowing the patient to adapt this simple, relaxed demeanor (Whitaker,

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