My Lobotomy by Howard Dully

Title: My Lobotomy
Author: Howard Dully (and Charles Fleming)
Pub Date: 2007
Pages: 286
Genre: NonFiction, Memoir, Psychology
Rating: 4.5/5


My Lobotomy is the heart wrenching story of a young boy who, at age 12, is loosely diagnosed with "schizophrenia" and assigned a frontal lobotomy as his treatment plan. But you see, the memoir is much more than Howard Dully's brain surgery under the ice pick held by the famous Dr. Freeman. It's a story of sickening proportions - a young boy who lost his mother at age five; a manipulative and cruel step-mother convinced that her stepson was a monster; an angry father who wipes his hands clean of the problem; and a group of brothers who fear for the safety of themselves and their brother. And yet, it's also a story of love and compassion; of overcoming obstacles; of growth and self discovery; and most importantly of perseverance.

Howard Dully at the age of 12 (to the right) could never have imagined that his visit to the hospital would change his life forever. In fact, as a young man, he felt a bit excited by the visit. He would be able to watch whatever he wanted on the TV, he would be doting on by the nurses, and he might even get jello for dessert. What was there to fear? He knew that he wasn't sick. Howard liked and trusted his doctor, Dr. Freeman. The hospital would be a break from school, his dad, and even better, his awful stepmom - Lou.

What he didn't realize was that Lou had been conspiring against him with Dr. Freeman. Howard had entered the hospital to have a frontal lobotomy performed on him. Was he crazy? Was he unstable? From all indications, it didn't appear so. Then why was he subjected to this horrifying surgery? My Lobotomy is Howard's quest to figure out that question.

My Thoughts:

Initially, I found that the memoir was difficult to get into. The first couple of chapters were filled with family lineage and background information. I found that my mind began to wander a bit. Still, I was interested in the premise of the book and decided the continue. I'm really glad that I did. The remaining 200 pages I read quickly and voraciously.

Dully shares his memories of living with his stepmom, Lou, and I am aghast at the behavior of this woman. For one reason or the next, she had it out for Howard Dully, her new stepson. She despised him, and spent countless hours seeking ways to get rid of him. The thing is, his behavior, although at times a bit troublesome, was never pathological. In actuality, he was a boy potentially acting out because the death of his mom at age five and then living in a volatile home environment. At the very most, I could see how a psychiatrist might have diagnosed Howard with H, but even that would be hard to determine based on the accounts shared in the memoir and his tumultuous life.

After hearing many doctors tell Lou that Howard wasn't the problem, and in fact, perhaps she needed to seek help, she finally found relief in Dr. Freeman. Now here's a man who has ulterior motives. After a few sessions, Dr. Freeman agrees to perform a lobotomy. The thing that is eerie about this is, I don't really think that Dr. Freeman was this evil experimenter; I truly believe that he believed in his own surgeries. Which sort of makes it scarier.

Howard Dully does a great job introducing Dr. Freeman in the memoir, devoting a whole chapter to his prior performances and the field in psychology and services that were offered in the 1950's. Scary crazy stuff. But it proves to question what we will think about our current treatment plans seeing as lobotomies were not held in basements out of the public eye. Nope, they were getting props in magazines that the public devoured.

While in graduate school, I was extremely interested in the field of neuropsychology. There were so many cool things coming into play as we began to understand more and more about the brain and what it's capable of. As a class we would get into heated discussions about the use of psychoactive drugs in children and teens since they're brains were still developing. We still don't know what the brain is capable of, how it heals itself, or how we can damage it. Sure we're smarter than we were 50 years ago (thankfully, scrambling someone's frontal lob with an ice pick is no longer considered 'smart practices') but how much smarter are we going to be 50 years from now?

Howard Dully is an incredibly generous man for sharing his story. I highly recommend this memoir.

Some links of interest:


  1. Wow, this sounds disturbing. I'm curious about this stepmom. Did she seek other treatment before deciding on a lobotomy?

    1. no, she actually took him to several doctors because I think the first didn't think the kid was crazy. It was a medical trend, much like ADD medicine today. Its another quick fix for the carers, not the patient.

  2. This definitely sounds like a book I'd be interested in. That lobotomies were ever performed is simply terrifying. And like you said, those doctors truly believed they were helping their patients...

    I'm with you on questioning some of the treatment methods that are used today. I'm currently reading an amazing book that addresses some of that - Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. The author calls it the medicalisation of everyday life. It's scary and eye-opening stuff.

  3. Thanks for the great review !!!!

    Howard Dully

  4. wow, this is scary, poor kid...I want to read this book and yet the unjust pain inflicted on this boy is so painful to imagine. I also wonder if this stepmother ever received psyciatric help.....

  5. I just picked this up from the library - it looks like a it will be an excellent read.

    I've often wondered about how we consider medical practices that have been used in the past as barbaric, if sometime in the future society will look upon our own modern medical techniques as being just as bad.

    Thanks for the wonderful review :)

  6. Thanks for this review. I heard about this book on the radio some time ago and was interested in it then. I'm much more interested in it now.

  7. This post makes me want to start a challenge for reading books suggested on other blogs...although I'm sure there's already one out there.

    This has definitely made my To Read list. Thanks!

  8. Sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. Charley - from my understanding, the stepmother would leave any shrink that suggested she was the problem. Her role in this was quite unbelievable!

    Nymeth - I'll have to check out Bad Science. I remember when working on my master's in therapy becoming frustrated with all of the clients who wanted to just dose their kid up without any type of counseling. I'm not necessarily anti-medication, but believe that it should go hand in hand with therapy!

    Howard - good luck to you!

    Madeline - at times, it truly was a difficult read.

    Joanne - can't wait to hear your review.

    CB - hope you enjoy!

    Trish - I know, I love the book blogging community, but hell if it doesn't make my TBR pile grow more! :)

    Anna - Enjoy :)

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