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Coming Up: My Lobotomy

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now there was a time when people with mental problems received a very different kind of intervention. Later today on NPR's "All Things Considered," we're meeting a man named Howard Dully, who went through a medical procedure sometimes called surgery of the soul.

Mr. HOWARD DULLY (Had Lobotomy): If you saw me, you'd never know I had a lobotomy. The only thing you'd notice is that I'm very tall and weigh about 350 pounds. But I've always felt different, wondered if something's missing from my soul.

INSKEEP: Howard Dully had a lobotomy in 1960 when he was 12 years old. He had no memory of the operation, so two years ago he set out to learn everything he could about the procedure and later today on NPR, he tells the full story of what he learned.

Mr. DULLY: By 1949, the transorbital lobotomy had caught on. Walter Freeman lobotomized patients in mental institutions across the country. He narrated this instructional movie promoting the procedure.

(Soundbite of instructional movie)

Dr. WALTER FREEMAN: Last night boy of nine came, a dreamy, sensitive individual, interested particularly in the current musical idiom of be-bop. Transorbital lobotomy was performed on August 1st.

INSKEEP: Howard Dully's story comes to us from the same people who bring us the oral history project, StoryCorps. He found out what happened to him through a StoryCorps technique. He interviewed people close to him, including his father.

(Soundbite of interview)

Mr. DULLY: Is there anything in this that you regret at all?

Unidentified Man: Whew. See, that's negative, and I don't dwell on negative ideas.

Mr. DULLY: OK. But this was--you know, this has really--excuse me--has affected my whole life.

Unidentified Man: Nobody is perfect. Fifty years later, I can say this was a mistake.

Mr. DULLY: Yeah.

Unidentified Man: But so was World War I a mistake.

Mr. DULLY: A mistake. So why do you think it's been so hard for us to talk about this, in your estimation?

Unidentified Man: Largely because you never asked about it.

INSKEEP: Now that Howard Dully has asked about it, we will hear the answers later today on NPR's "All Things Considered."

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.