ST on Health: The Wall Street Journal's Extraordinary Multimedia Journalism --- "The Lobotomy Files"

Dec 19, 2013

On this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, guest host John Henning Schumann speaks with Michael M. Phillips, a staff reporter at the Washington, D.C., bureau of The Wall Street Journal. Phillips has reported on the U.S. ground war in Afghanistan since 2001, and he went to Iraq to cover a certain American battalion several times between 2003 and 2006. He writes often about the aftermath of these wars, including post-traumatic stress, suicide, and other issues facing veterans and their families. Phillips joins us to describe a remarkable if not revelatory piece of multimedia journalism that recently appeared on The Wall Street Journal's website. This detailed, highly in-depth work, "The Lobotomy Files" --- written by Phillips and assembled/edited/produced with the aid of many other journalists --- reports on how "the U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans --- and likely hundreds more --- during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters, and government reports unearthed by The Wall Street Journal. Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe, and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics, and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals. The VA doctors considered themselves conservative in using lobotomy. Nevertheless, desperate for effective psychiatric treatments, they carried out the surgery at VA hospitals spanning the country, from Oregon to Massachusetts, Alabama to South Dakota."