"THE INVESTIGATOR," SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS
JANUARY 3rd, 2009
Rosemary Kennedy--sister to President John and Senators Robert and Edward--died of natural causes at age 86 near a special care facility in Wisconsin, where she had lived almost all her adult life.
What happened to poor Rosemary at the tender age of 23 continues to haunt us.
Dr. Bertram Brown, a former Deputy Surgeon General of the U.S., once called it "The biggest mental health cover-up in history."
Let's uncover it.
Rosemary Kennedy was not mentally retarded, as Kennedy lore suggests. But even if she were, family patriarch Joseph Kennedy's ultimate solution for dealing with such a handicap would still be unforgivable: He made his daughter submit to a prefrontal lobotomy.
The procedure took place in 1941 at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C., where America's original lobotomist, Dr. Walter Freeman, practiced his favorite experimental psychosurgery, usually with a bespoke gold-plated ice pick.
For a start, lobotomy was never supposed to be conducted on the mentally retarded. It was designed for the mentally insane, as a means to relieve chronic aggression.
But Rosemary was not insane, either.
She was temperamental, possibly depressed, with a lower-than-average I.Q.
As such, Rosemary was an embarrassment to her father, who possessed high political ambitions for his sons. Her tantrums, compounded by promiscuity, deeply troubled Joe, who fretted she might become pregnant and shame the family.
So while Joe's wife, Rose, was away, and without her knowledge, he consulted Walt Freeman, who agreed that prefrontal lobotomy was a fine fix for a young woman in the prime of her life who was having, perhaps, too much fun. It would, promised Walt, put an end to her "mood swings that the family found difficult to handle at home." (Part of the reason Rosemary was difficult to handle at home was because her siblings--all of higher intelligence--treated her like moron.)
While the patient recited the Lord's Prayer and sang God Bless America, neurosurgeon James Watts--supervised by Walt--cut at Rosemary's prefrontal lobes with an instrument similar to a butter knife until her words became incoherent.
The procedure worked! No more mood swings, no more tantrums, no more promiscuity; and most important, no more embarrassment for Joe.
Also this: No more personality, no more ability to think or speak; a young, vibrant life taken--sacrificed to pathological ambition. Walt Freeman liked to say, "Lobotomy gets them home," as he traversed the country in his lobotomobile, a Cortez trailer, goading asylum keepers in 23 states to line up their unruly.
But Rosemary Kennedy did not go home. Incapacitated, with a developmental age of 2, Rosemary was cast off to Wisconsin--and Joe all but erased her existence from the family.