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Report: VA lobotomized 2,000 World War II-era veterans

NEW YORK, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. government lobotomized at least 2,000 mentally ill veterans during and after World War II, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said it unearthed memos, letters and government reports detailing the procedures. A lobotomy involves cutting or scraping away most of the connections on the frontal lobes of the brain to change behavior.

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The Veterans Administration doctors considered the lobotomies conservative medicine, the report said, and carried out the procedures across the country.

VA doctors performed the operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics, schizophrenics and, occasionally, people identified as homosexuals, the Journal said.

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The procedure sometimes worked, the newspaper said, but often it left veterans unable to care for themselves, while many suffered seizures, amnesia and loss of motor skills and even death.

The Journal cited the case of Roman Tritz, now 90 and a former World War II bomber pilot.

Tritz said he fought orderlies off when they came to take him to the operating theater in 1953, a few weeks before his 30th birthday. But they overcame him during a second visit.

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"They just wanted to ruin my head, it seemed to me," Tritz told the Journal. "Somebody wanted to."

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During eight years in the VA hospital in Tomah, Wis., Tritz also underwent 28 rounds of electroshock therapy,

Asked recently about lobotomy procedures, the the VA issued a written response: "In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, VA and other physicians throughout the United States and the world debated the utility of lobotomies. The procedure became available to severely ill patients who had not improved with other treatments. Within a few years, the procedure disappeared within VA, and across the United States, as safer and more effective treatments were developed."

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