#5: Weird Medical Treatments: Lobotomy and Insulin Shock Therapy

Weird Medical Treatments

Lobotomies and Insulin Shock Therapy

Have you ever wondered how to get rid of those pesky migraines or nervous indigestion? Have you suffered from depression or schizophrenia and ever wished for the miracle cure for your ailments? If so, a lobotomy is your answer!

Popularized in the 1930s by psychiatrist Walter Freeman, the transorbital lobotomy consisted of sticking an icepick-like tool in the patient’s eye, then wiggling it in and out for about 5 minutes. After the first eye was done, the an icepick would be inserted into the other eye. Does this not sound effective? We didn’t think so either. Seeing as how there really isn’t a way to know if a lobotomy “worked”, it seems like a science experiment taken too far.

40,000-50,000 patients were lobotomized until the procedure eventually faded out of practice in the '80s. REALLY? The ‘80s? That’s right. Lobotomies were performed on children with ADD and minorities as a means of control. One of Walter Freeman’s most famous failures came with the lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest sister of former President John F Kennedy. While Rosemary did suffer from an intellectual disability and functioned at a 4th grade level into her early 20s, the lobotomy performed on her left her with the mind of a toddler. It wasn’t until 20 years after her institutionalization the her mother and sister eventually brought light to her condition and spearheaded projects that focused on the humane treatment of patents in mental institutions in America.

Even weirder is insulin shock therapy used to treat schizophrenic patients around the same time period. Inducing comas for an hour for six out of seven days of the week, insulin shock therapy was a commonly prescribed treatment in the early-mid 20th century.

Side effects included convulsions, perspiration, and morbid obesity. The treatment was usually carried on over the course of 1-2 months, with some courses lasting up to a year. Dosages were usually 100-150 units, but some patients required 450 units of insulin to put them into a coma.

Some psychiatrists even combined the notorious electro-shock therapy with insulin shock therapy for maximum impact. I wonder why putting patients into a comatose state would rid them of their schizophrenic symptoms?

In the end, insulin shock therapy had no impact on instances of schizophrenia. It was alleged that the patients who “benefited” from insulin shock therapy would have had relief from their symptoms whether they received the therapy or not.

Listen to this week’s episode and thank your favorite deity that we live in a time of modern medicine, where somewhat common ailments aren’t cured by having your brains scrambled or injected with lethal doses of insulin!