The film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was made in 1975, over 10 years after the book was first sent for review. It won 5 Oscars and another 28 awards, as well as having 11 other nominations. At the end of the film, we see the main character, the rebellious Randal McMurphy, after he was forced to have a frontal lobotomy. He is in a vegetative state and there is no trace of the once fun-loving and adventurous man. This is an excellent example of psychosurgery and institutionalisation and how they were used during the 1940~50s, when the original novel that the film is based on was written.
Psychosurgery was invented in 1935 by Egas Moniz, a Portuguese neurosurgeon at a hospital in Lisbon. It is the practice of severing or disabling areas of the brain to treat a personality disorder, behaviour disorder, or other mental illness. Lobotomy, a branch of psychosurgery, is a procedure performed on the frontal lobe of the brain and its purpose is to alleviate mental illness and chronic pain symptoms. It is classified as a functional neurosurgical procedure because it attempts to improve or restore function by altering underlying physiology.
. In a frontal lobotomy, as we see in the film, surgeons cut or drill holes in the skull and remove or destroy tissue in the frontal lobes. This is where most current evidence indicates the higher cognitive and reasoning capabilities of humans are localized.
Lobotomies were associated with a high complication rate including intellectual impairment, personality change, seizures, paralysis and death. Early operations were performed with surgical knives, electrodes, suction, or ice picks, to cut or sweep out portions of the frontal lobe.
Between 1946 and 1949, the use of the lobotomy grew from 500 to 5,000 annual procedures in the United States. At that time, the procedure was viewed as a possible solution to the overcrowded and understaffed...