Thanks to vast improvements in hygiene, pharmaceuticals, and surgical techniques and devices, medical treatments today tend to be significantly less painful—and less deadly—than they were a century ago. Though the cures of yesteryear often seem brutally primitive, some, like the five treatments in this gallery, stand on solid science.
The transorbital lobotomy is a pretty brutal practice. In 1946, Dr. Walter Freeman (left) created the procedure, in which physicians hammer an ice pick through the eye socket into the brain to sever nerve fibers in the frontal lobe. Despite lacking concrete evidence to prove its efficacy, Freeman’s emphatic promotion led to the procedure's proliferation. Shoddy lobotomies—sometimes performed on unwilling patients—led to paralysis, brain death, and in some cases fatality.
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