14. "Surgery to the Rescue"
In 1977, the Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical
Research changed the status of psychosurgery from "experimental"
to "therapeutic," thus bypassing legal protections for prisoners
and involuntarily confined mental patients.
This act was authorized by Congress and accepted by Joseph Califano,
Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and is now a part of our
national policy on human experimentation.
Federal funds have been utilized to conduct research in an attempt
to correlate violence with brain damage since 1970. Between 400-1,000
lobotomies are performed each year on Americans with an undisclosed
amount performed coercively upon retained individuals within our state
penal and mental health institutions.
The advocates of lobotomies argue from a premise of economics, claiming
it is far cheaper to perform such an operation on a long-term inmate
than it is to clothe and house that person over many years within the
The critics of psychosurgury claim the surgeons are confusing disease
with deviance and cure with control, and further assert that these surgeons
claim the inability to conform to current sociocultural norms is due
to brain damage. The terminology revised by the Commission for the Protection
of Human Subjects of Biomedical Research, enables the surgeons to operate
on the confined patients regardless of their lack of initial consent
by either the patient or by the next of kin.
The Progressive, p.23, December, 1977, by Lani Silver, Elyse Eisenberg,
Katie Rain, Shelley Fern and Joanne Judt (San Francisco free-lance writer-researchers
on the work of Biomedical Research and actions taken by the Commission
for the Protection of Human Subjects).
The Humanist, pages b and 7, July/August, 1977, by Dr. Peter McL. Black
and Dr. Thomas Szasz.