Monday, December 05, 2005

NPR : 'My Lobotomy': Howard Dully's Journey

I listened to this extremely disturbing NPR podcast of this procedure, which was once considered normal, and now unthinkable. I was bawling by the end. The text is all there in this link, but it is far more moving hearing it in person.

12/06/05 - OK, I remember a quote from Howard's father that does not appear in the text. When Howard asked his father whether he regretted allowing the operation, he said, "Well, now that's negative, I only think about positive things." It outraged me that he did not take any responsibility or even acknowledge the mistake in hindsight. You don't have to dwell on bad events, but you do need to at least acknowledge them so you can learn from them.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

First of all, I must say that this was a somewhat difficult story to listen to. I was listening to it while feverishly searching through emails at for information needed to do schematic I admit to only having a part of my brain focused on it. (even so, it was hard to concentrate on anything other than the story for some points)

It was a very complex thing to listen to as well...but quite frankly, the most disturbing part of all of this was that the good Dr. Freeman (and I use that term loosely) seems to have allowed his own fame and fortune get ahead of his desire to do good. I hate to admit this, because it is never good to wish bad on anyone, but it was nice to hear that Dr. Freeman's life did not turn out as nice as he had hoped....and in a way, he paid for his cavelier and selfish use and abuse of people.

I don't know why, but I do suspect that all the doctor's work indeed began with the notion of trying to create a more humane actually help people. (the fact that it all seems to brutal and in-humane is now true in hindsight....and if you look at MOST medical procedures today, a good many of them seem quite brutal and primative. My mother worked at Mass General for 17 years, and she had plenty of "stories" to tell)

But the good doctor began performing mass-labotomies to prove how wonderful and simple the procedure was. He became more of a showman...and playing with people's lives in this manner is WAY past pure and plain in-humane.

He performed this serious procedure on all people with all kinds of problems.... certainly without consern for the safety of the patient. It seems to me that it was all about Dr. Freeman's fame....such a shame. (much more than just a shame actually....much much worst)

But in a way, I found this piece to be strangely positive. I mean Howard seems to have found some closure with his father. While Howard's father's response was a bit odd to me... I think I understand his situation a bit....well, to a point. His father ultimately admits that the lobotomy was a mistake, but shows his own son no remorse for having done this to his own flesh and blood. The fact that Howard himself was not upset and was in fact sort of accepting of it all kept me from being upset....but I guess they were both simply saying something like "Hell, we are where we are does no one any good to get mad over past mistakes since there is no changing the reality we have now."

I guess I'm a person detached from the whole situation....if this had been my father, I'm not sure how I would have treated him. The article didn't give me any other insights into the relationship that Howard and his father had for his entire life....the fact that Howard had not even approached his father to ask him about this before this moment might indicate the kind of respect or perhaps fear he had for him....I am not sure.

So in a strange way, it appeared that it was a sort of positive closure. Howard actually seemed somewhat "normal" to me....well, certainly not a messed up as some of the other "patients" of Dr. Freeman.

It wasn't really as disturbing a story as I thought it would be...however, very sad...indeed.

I actually feel bad that Howard was not able to face his step-mother with his questions....but I'm not sure she would have even talked to him anyways.

PS: The comment that his father made about "I'm happy to see you turned out so good" (or something like that) seemed like a comment that further validated his point about having made a mistake.....I felt that Howards father was sort of "relieved" when he said it....I can't really tell, but I do think he had probably struggled with what he had done at some point back in his past....but had been able to get past it...but this comment was the last sigh of relief from that part of him that still held on to that unhappiness....though I'm probably reading way too much into that short remark.