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Portrayals of lobotomy in American and Swedish media
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2013 (English)In: Literature, neurology and neuroscience: neurological and psychiatric disorders / [ed] Stanley Finger, François Boller and Anne Stiles, Amsterdam: Elsevier , 2013, 201-217 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Psychosurgery has a long history dating back to the 1880s when Gottlieb Burckhardt performed focal cerebral cortical excisions on the brains of six patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. His operations were vividly contested by the medical community of the time. In 1936, when Walter J. Freeman and James W. Watts performed their initial prefrontal lobotomies in the United States, they were met with some professional opposition from superintendents, who would not provide them with patients for the operation. However, Freeman and Watts managed to cope well with the opponents. In newspapers and magazines, the curiosity for lobotomy was obvious. Freeman was instrumental in the way he promoted lobotomy, and he evoked the interest of the press and the journalists for this new surgical treatment on mental illness, something that he regarded as a medico-historical breakthrough. In this chapter, the portrayal of lobotomy in American and Swedish newspapers and magazines is explored and analyzed. How did journalists write about lobotomy for the public in the years spanning 1936 to 1959, a period in which the American and Swedish presses appeared inclined to describe the positive effects of lobotomy, while neglecting the negative and fatal consequences of the operation. There are not only similarities but also interesting differences between the Swedish and the American articles depicting lobotomy. The media can be a powerful factor in the construction of “facts,” which can significantly affect decisions made by people about their health issues. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Amsterdam: Elsevier , 2013. 201-217 p.
, Progress in Brain Research, Amsterdam: The Netherlands, 2013, ISSN 0079-6123 ; 206
Keyword [en]
Freeman Walter, lobotomy, newspaper, magazine, science journalism, local press, national press, patient stories
National Category
Neurosciences Specific Literatures Psychiatry
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-83743DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63364-4.00028-4ISI: 000349330400011ISBN: 978-0-444-63364-4OAI: diva2:676645
Available from: 2013-12-06 Created: 2013-12-06 Last updated: 2015-06-11Bibliographically approved

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Ögren, Kenneth
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