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 state institutions.

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.

SOURCES:

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.