The white cut: Egas Moniz, lobotomy, and the Nobel prize
In 1949 the Nobel prize was awarded to Egas Moniz, the neurologist who carried out the first lobotomy, a procedure that caused severe physical and psychological impairment. Seye Abimbola investigates the ongoing debate.
- By: Seye Abimbola, Obafemi Awolowo
The closest most medical students get to learning about lobotomy is during their psychiatry or possibly neurosurgery rotations, although there is more chance for those who do an elective in medical history. However, the story of Egas Moniz and lobotomy exemplifies some of the important events and contemporary issues of social relevance in the history of medicine.
Egas Moniz, an outstanding neurologist who had been nominated twice for the Nobel prize for his development of the cranial angiogram with his surgical associate, Almeida Lima, performed the first lobotomy in 1935. Lobotomy means “the incision of a lobe,” but in this context it is simply the destruction or removal of the prefrontal lobes of the cortex of the brain, an option of last resort used to treat some forms of mental disorder that did not respond to other treatments. He wasn't a trained surgeon, and since his hands were deformed by