Thursday, October 05, 2006

Suddenly Last Summer


I started watching the Kate Hepburn movie Suddenly Last Summer, and pretty much gave up when I saw it involved a lobotomy. It absolutely makes me sick.
The Church of Scientology may be nuts itself, but it has done a lot to end the practice of lobotomies.
Whether it has completely succeeded, I am not sure. We don't hear much about lobotomy these days, but is it still done? (And electro-convulsive "therapy" too, almost as evil I think.)

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're glib, Eolake.
Research, then summarize. You are not the first to issue an opinion, then wait to be informed. You are possibly the least humble, however.
A glib dipshit.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Aw, take a long walk on a short pier.

Cliff Prince said...

I think lobotomizing someone was the "evil dirty dark secret" type of thing that was in the popular imagination at the time that "Suddenly Last Summer" was written. There's not a lot of psychiatric reality to the movie, in the portions about the actual effects of lobotomy. It kind of filled the function that now we put to alien death rays, torture at the hands of the Kardassians, or taking the wrong pill (red or blue?) to see the Matrix.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty flustered when I learnt that this electro-shock-"therapy" crap is still being done in this time and age in Australia.
Not sure if I would want too much of Scientology's help on anything, though...

Anonymous said...

The first time I ever ran into lobotomy I was working as a nurses aide in a hospital, 36 years ago. There was one kind of lost, forgetful woman. She was in for some kind of minor exploratory surgery. And the thing that got to me about her is that nothing interested her. She would just sit in bed for hours on end and do nothing. I'd never seen anybody like this before in my whole life! I was really curious about her so I checked her chart. She'd had a lobotomy 20 years earlier.

Around the same time this happened, my best friend's husband committed her to a psych hospital - one of those expensive, private ones (he had lot of insurance to cover it). She had 15 shock treatments in less than a month.

When I saw her next, she couldn't remember me.

She had four kids, agest 6 to 14. Her husband committed her because she blew her stack and started screaming. "Everyone" was afraid what she'd do to the kids is so was so out-of-control.

Well then didn't have to worry after that. With the damage from the ECT and the thorazine she was taking she was certainly no threat to them or anyone ever again.

My friend Diana and I were into Yoga at that time and we tried to talk her into stop taking her drugs and doing Yoga instead. It was hard to get her attention, to ever suggest it to her. She didn't seem to be listening. But when we finally did get through to her, the idea terrified her.

I guess she was afraid she'd be suggested to more torture.

This was all years before I got into Scientology, but when I found out the Scientology I decided to check it out. Glad I did, too.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, Betsy, yes that's what I'm talking about. This stuff is not a boogieman, it is genuine, serious damage to human minds.
After all the movies (An Angel At My Table, Coocoo's Nest, etc), and all the debate, it is shocking that at least ECT is still going on, and I wouldn't be surprised if lobotomies are also, if kept quiet.

Wonko outside the asylum said...

Eolake,

You won't have seen the recent programme on BBC television following Stephen Fry as he discussed his problems with Manic Depression, and researched causes, effects and treatments. One of the treatments being used (very effectively for the person interviewed) was ECT. I found the whole programme fascinating and a valueable insight into a condition few of those who have it understand, let alone the rest of us. I can't say that ECT is good or bad, I don't know enough about it or how it is used. All I can say is that in this case, for this person, it helped.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I could be wrong, but to me it sounds like similar to, if you hit 20 amnesiacs hard over the head, one or two of them will recover their memory. (I made that up, but it illustrates what I mean.)

Cliff Prince said...

I don't know much about the medical causes and effects of any of these procedures. I do know that Scientology is a cult that has damaged many lives irreparably in order to fill the pockets of the leaders and create a pyramid-structure financial scam. What it's done to downtown Clearwater, Florida, a formerly neat little semi-urban paradise by the sea, is despicable; and how the "church" skirts government control by claiming to be spiritual is equally despicable.

I'm appalled anyone would speak positively of it.

Wonko outside the asylum said...

"if you hit 20 amnesiacs hard over the head, one or two of them will recover their memory. (I made that up, but it illustrates what I mean.)"

I hear you; that's why I was careful to say that for that person in their case it was helpful. By no means was I intending to endorse it for use on everyone. Medical treatments of any kind all work differently on different people because we are different. Some people respond better to so called "alternative" therapies, others would rather take an asprin. It's horses for courses.

Anonymous said...

I'm ready to bet THIS anonymous is a supporter of Scientology...
He/she is not a supporter of savoir-vivre, in any case.

Eolake,
How long, the walk on the pier?
Would cement shoes with assorted iron bracelets be gauche for such an occasion?

As a graduated MD, I happen to have spent a two week period in a psychiatric hospital in Lebanon. And then, I convinced them to let me out. (Just kidding about that last bit!)
Almost got myself raped by a "depressive" lady, incidentally. Too bad she wasn't my type! (Not kidding. All I had to say was "yes". I certainly was HER type!)

Please have a little patience as I prepare another of my patented huge posts on the main topic. There are a lot of facts to issue here.

Plus, I need to have me a new profanity vaccine shot, seems there's some of that going around.
:-P

Anonymous said...

Okay, time for the Doctor's conference.
Those not interested are free to leave the room at any time. :-)

I've heard mention of electro-convulsive therapy in Psychiatry class. Marginally. It's very marginal.
Now, first of all, we must remember how much Medicine has evolved since extremely barbaric and raw times. Asepsy, anesthesia, ethics, pharmacology... Much progress is quite recent. So I won't defend some of the appalling things that went on in the past. Just glad things changed.
I once was an assistant to an ECT session. It has nothing to do with the classic images of torture. Patients are first put under a brief general anesthesia, so they won't feel a thing, just like during a five-minute surgery. The principle of ECT is to cause, under carefully controlled conditions, the exact equivalent of a generalized epileptic seizure. Which WOULD itself cause a total loss of consciousness, but only after a painful electrocution moment! So, nowadays, ECT doesn't appear as barbaric in itself, just... crude. (And may I point out that this was in 1995 Lebanon, so I'm sure they don't do it with less consideration in any normal U.S. clinic.)
Now, naturally, comes the normal question, why STILL use such an admittedly crude "therapy"? Well, because precisely is is marginal but useful therapy in SOME cases. Some schizophrenias, for example, won't respond to drugs, but ECT will greatly improve most of their symptoms. (And under competent hands they're not "zapped" every other day, far from it. That would be barbaric.) And there are some extreme cases, which have given birth to the aptly named expression "shock treatment". In some extreme cases, often life-threatening in the very short term, where there is pretty much nothing to lose, ECT has been attempted, and sometimes successful. Occasionally near-miraculous. The popular image is correct : "It might save him, or it might kill him in his condition. But at this point there is nothing left to lose by trying and we've exhausted all other means at our disposal." [Remember that Lois & Clark episode where they save Superman by nearly killing him with Kryptonite?]
It's a very marginal practice, as far as I know, because as I said it's crude, and although it works sometimes it's not well known how exactly. Probably never will be known, with more modern treatments being perfected.
I'm not defending ECT, but remember it's a tool, and it's only good or bad depending on how you use it. Or abuse it, certainly.
I cannot tell, in the example given above, whether that poor person was horribly mis-treated by some criminals in white coats, or whether she turned out to have a schizophrenia (often hard to diagnose for a non-professional) causing her symptoms, and it was the treatment of that shizophrenia that left her "very calm, but little else". A decompensated schizophrenia can change completely the person you once knew for years, and that near-indifferent state can also be the best Medicine can do to ease the suffering these people would constantly feel otherwise.
I had an opportunity to specialize in Psychiatry. And I already had top grades in class. But I chose to turn it down. Because I have too much empathy. I don't just know and understand what a psychotic may feel, I feel it with him. Wasn't a daily working life for me. Suffice to say, for some people, feeling or caring nothing is a relative bliss compared to the inner hell of their disturbed mind. Like, feeling your thoughts running amok or being controlled by aliens (demons in Lebanon), "seeing" your body falling apart or becoming that of another, "hearing" forceful orders to hurt others or yourself... You get the idea.
Schizo can destroy one's identity, so it's no surprise that sometimes memory gets hugely affected too. Sometimes. Still, we know there are some VERY black sheep which are a blessing for Scientology propagandists. I personally know someone here who was almost destroyed by an incompetent psychiatrist, and I sure as hell won't defend any of those. (Basically, that person never got the very serious psychotherapy he clearly needed, only more and more medications. Bad use of a good tool.)

Oh, and Betsy... DON'T ever try to talk a psy patient out of taking their medications. Most schizophrenic relapses are caused by interruption of medication. If you legitimately feel your friend isn't well handled, seek a reputed or trusted specialist to competently assess the situation. Without the proper knowledge, with the best intentions in the world you might still do more harm than good. I've looked into the eyes of madness. Many, many times. I personally know a socially semi-functional schizophrenic person. Trust me, you DON'T want to be playing apprentice wizards with the diseases of the mind. Unlike what Hollywood tells you, most of these people are essentially harmless, except to themselves, but that's quite enough don't you think?
And, you know those much hyped school shooting dramas? Well, this is usually due to a seemingly moderate mental problem: schizophrenia or grave depression, that went undiagnosed. There is a reason why these people usually kill themselves in the end. They might even believe they are doing their victims a genuine favor by ending a life they can only perceive as a Golgotha. Follow your heart and compassion, yes. But also your brains.

Now, on to the very unpleasant subject of lobotomy. I know some "knowing" people believed, for a long time, that removing one or both of the pre-frontal lobes of the brain was of no consequence. Well, it's true that all basic functions remain intact. But NOT social behavior, or the personnality. It has been seen in the times where brain surgery was entirely experimental, and undoubtedly abused. But nowadays, apart from brain cancer surgeries, I can imagine no reason to do such an extreme thing unless you're a disciple of Joseph Stalin. Nature doesn't fool around by creating useless things in adapted species. The appendix, the tonsils, the penis foreskin, have their role. And since the unique size of the human brain makes birth in our species exceptionally delicate, Nature wouldn't have maintained a superfluous volume in it!

I suggest you web-search the name Phineas P. Gaige. He's a very famous case of accidental partial lobotomy (from a construction accident). He illustrates perfectly what happens when somebody's lobes are damaged.
Not to seem like a show-off, but I ALSO know a person who, following a head trauma, had a permanent lesion in the cortex of that area. Not very big, really, but still... That person is fully functional in theory, but is gravely handicaped socially, and for life. For a pretty girl of 20, that's a damn pity.
I know, I've seen a lot... Including some things you wouldn't imagine and I'd better not tell. (Off-topic anyway.)

[Awkward pause]

So, basically, and I'm synthetizing the many sources of my knowledge, in the 21st century, only a malignant tumor could ever warrant lobotomy. And still, should I have to decide for myself, I'm not sure I'd want to go on with it. The integrity of my mind and brain feels like the most important thing in the world to me. More important than love? Well, would I still love the same? Let's say, just as important, because they are impossible to separate. Like hearing and music.
Still, don't let that influence you in case of a cancer. I'm just expressing a purely personnal view here, relating to ethics and philosophy more than Medicine. Each of us must decide in his heart and soul, and this is what I'd tell all my patients.
(See the Euthanasia discussion for more on ethics and tough decisions.)

"if you hit 20 amnesiacs hard over the head, one or two of them will recover their memory."
Well, as I said earlier, since it might also kill them, it all depends on how desperate you are regarding that amnesia. Do they hold the secret code to stop a nuclear holocaust that's already under way?
(Say, I wouldn't be surprised to see THAT in a cheesy movie some day.)

"I do know that Scientology is a cult that has damaged many lives irreparably in order to fill the pockets of the leaders"
Alas, that seems perfectly correct. The fact that they SOMETIMES use some sounds arguments (or sound-seeming) only makes them more dangerous. They hate psychiatry. Well, I for one know that psychiatry has greatly helped me expand my understanding of people. Especially those who are suffering inside, and those who are not responsible for some of their actions. As I believe I've just demonstrated, modesty aside. Many uneducated people I know are fascinated by learning in that field too. Medical science can help us know and understand more. Cults, or even intensely-involved religions, will only push us to believe there is one, simple truth, and the rest isn't worth thinking about.

Well, I strongly object.

Is there a single "Holy Book" that tells you how to react in front of a gravely bleeding wound? (Find the artery and press hard on it.) Or a child having an asthma crisis? Or a problematic obstetrical birth? (Move the baby in a correct position.) How to make antibiotics without a laboratory? (Penicillin comes from dumb mold.) How to operate an appendicitis? How to differenciate demonic possession from an epileptic seizure with post-crisis syncope [Markl 9:17-27]? A coma from actual death [Matthew 9:24]? How to calculate fractions and geometrically divide land to give fair shares? Did they tell us that the Earth WASN'T flat, or guide us to the Americas to convert their inhabitants like the rest of "the whole world"? NO! So, they don't hold ALL relevant and important truth, do they? Please, leave Darwin in peace then.

Choose the belief that suits you, but NEVER let it think in your place, and judge things you don't know in your place. You have the most evolved brain in Creation. Use it. Otherwise, it's a sin. Be what you are meant to, what you were ideally made for : sentient, thinking beings. Horses run. Sheetahs sprint. Cats hunt. Eagles soar. Nightingales sing. Fish swim. Vultures eliminate carrions. Termites build. Bees make honey. And humans think.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, Pascal, I did think you might be the voice of enlightenment and moderation.

Anonymous said...

Eolake,
Maybe so, but yours is officially the voice of the moderator.
;-)

Anonymous said...

It's a very marginal practice, as far as I know, because as I said it's crude, and although it works sometimes it's not well known how exactly.

Doesn't it basically destroy brain cells and neuronal pathways at random?

If that's what it does then if it does more damage to the parts causing the symptoms than to those enabling a person to live a life (and know who they are, etc) you would call it a success, and vice-versa.
So crude indeed, that I'd put it on one level with exorcism. There are quite a few methods out there which are not accepted by conventional medicine that are probably less crude and defintely less damaging which I'd prefer to try first.
Just 0.6 Cents worth from a medical layman...

Anonymous said...

"Just 0.6 Cents worth from a medical layman..."
...Who is therefore perfectly excused not to know some very technical details!
:-)
Here they are:

There is a condition known as status epilepticus, which consists of generalized epileptic seizures occurring very close to each other, with no respite, and may even become continuous. This is a medical emergency, because THEN, the neurons discharging at 100% capacity all the time will soon start getting damaged, from exhaustion and lactic acid accumulation. (They won't actually "fry" like fuses from a high voltage!!!) If nothing else suceeds, they have to be temporarily put under general anesthesia to save their life.

As far as I know, a single epileptic seizure, or even several ones separated by a reasonable interval, do no notable harm to the brain cells, it just gives them the serious need for a good rest, like after a (very) wild sprint.
On the opposite, it is the presence of scar tissue on the cerebal cortex (following trauma or a vascular accident) that may frequently be the CAUSE of epilepsy. (Fortunately, it is not a systematic complication.)

So, basically, this has nothing to do with the "variable toxicity" principle of cancer chemotherapy (and radiation therapy, to a lesser extent).

From what I've understood, ECT has the effect of changing the global brain chemistry, since the consumption of the neuro-mediators is intensely boosted. Maybe also that by leaving the neural pathways tired, those whose abnormal hyperactivity is causing certain problems are made to rest. Rest relatively, but that's usually all it takes. It's not about killing the rowdy ones, just forcing them to sit by making them run laps.

Of course, if you abuse it, there's bound to be harm done. Just like status epilepticus...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your explanations, Pascal. I'm still more than sceptical about the procedure (and I believe I did learn from a credible source that both epilepsy and ECT do usually cause at least some brain damage) but it's always good to actually have some basic knowledge about what I'm talking about.

Cliff Prince said...

Sorry I ranted about Scientology. Was it excessive? In my opinion, they deserve it. They prey on the needy, among other things, and thrive on disinformation. There are some murders in their recent past. They deliberately gather material resources in ways that allow them to skirt, or usurp, civic authority as based on citizen participation. They function as a pyramid scheme (I get 10 converts, each of them gets 10, each of them gets 10, so I'm in charge of 1000) thus attracting celebrities (who can parachute in at the top) as spokesmen. They pretend to religious and to psychological healing. And once in a blue moon they do have a small degree of positive effect on one life or another -- about 5% of the time, total?

I've been to their main headquarters to look around. I've met the docents, seen the flow-charts of spiritual mental whatever growth, seen the office they keep for when Elron will return from death (complete with sailor's cap and e-meters and pad and paper).

Cult. Period. Weird freaky dangerous outta-be-illegal. Period.

Don't drink the purple Kool-Aid.

:(

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Ah well, I still kinda like them.