Aggressive Intervention: Rosemary Kennedy, the oldest Kennedy sister, died this weekend. I always thought that she lived at the School for Exceptional Children because she was mentally retarded, as most of her obituaries claim, and that she had a frontal lobotomy because that was what doctors recommended in those days to cure intractable behavior problems. However, in the biography of her lobotomist, the real story is a little more nuanced, and not as flattering to the Kennedys, at least not to the patriarch.
It was Joe Kennedy's idea to have the lobotomy, and he sought out Dr. Walter Freeman, the father of American lobotomies, to perform it when the doctors in Boston advised him against it. One has to wonder how mentally disabled she was before the procedure, as she was able to attend school and to travel Europe without a chaperone. But, she was sneaking out at night and returning to her convent school disheveled and drunk. The nuns feared she was picking up men and goodness knows what else. And she threw temper tantrums. All of which got her the lobotomy, and a life of mental disability. Dr. Freeman's records, which are rich with details of his other patients, are strangely silent about the case and its aftermath. One can only marvel at the arrogance and the power of Joseph Kennedy. NPR has more. posted by Sydney on
1/10/2005 08:44:00 AM