After World War II, the U.S. government decided that the best way to treat at least 2000 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder was to give them a frontal lobotomy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, newly-uncovered documents reveal the bizarre practice was considered “psychiatric care” for American servicemen.
“They got the notion they were going to come to give me a lobotomy,” Roman Tritz, a World War II pilot told the Wall Street Journal. “To hell with them.”
Tritz recalls fighting off several orderlies at a U.S. veterans hospital, but they came for him again on July 1, 1953 and part of his brain was surgically removed by doctors, right before he turned 30.
“They just wanted to ruin my head, it seemed to me,” added Tritz, who is now 90 years old. “Somebody wanted to.”
The Wall Street Journal cited government records, inter-office correspondence and letters that showed veterans, who were diagnosed with homosexuality, schizophrenia, depression and psychosis, had the primitive brain surgery done to them between April 1947 and Sept. 1950.
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Several VA medical professionals opposed the brutal procedure, which was done by jamming an ice pick-like medical instrument into a service member’s brain via his eye socket.
The main advocate of the strange surgery was Dr. Walter J. Freeman, who once boasted: “A world that once seemed the abode of misery, cruelty and hate is now radiant with sunshine and kindness to [veterans].”
In response to the Wall Street Journal report, the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed it did not have any records of the lobotomies and tried to downplay the surgery, which left men as overgrown children who could not care for themselves; some even died during the procedures.
“In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, VA and other physicians throughout the United States and the world debated the utility of lobotomies,” the Department of Veterans Affairs’ statement read. “The procedure became available to severely ill patients who had not improved with other treatments. Within a few years, the procedure disappeared within VA, and across the United States, as safer and more effective treatments were developed.”
However, the procedure wasn't just “available,” it was forced on many vets, including Tritz.
The Army Times reports that in addition to the lobotomies, VA hospital staff would spray veterans with powerful jets of alternating hot and cold water to “stimulate their nerves.”
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The VA’s use of lobotomies was apparently known among medical professionals in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and even cited in medical papers, but was not widely reported on until now.