A Historical Lobotomy, Gone Wrong

Rosemary Kennedy was the sister of former President John F. Kennedy, and her family noticed something was off while she was growing up. During her toddler phase, she was behind her brothers in daily activities like crawling and speaking. She also was known to have multiple behavioral issues and had many temper tantrums. When she started going to school, it was obvious that she had some sort of intellectual difficulty that made her slower than the other students. By age 18, she was only at the intellectual level of a fourth grader while her brothers were excelling in all their classes. Even though she struggled with learning and performing daily tasks, she was still seen participating with her family and having a regular routine. 


It all went downhill for Rosemary in November 1941 when her father, Joseph Kennedy, scheduled a lobotomy to be performed on her. For background information, a lobotomy is a surgical procedure done to people with medical illnesses to provide relief to the patient. Keep in mind, during this time period, these types of procedures were not common and they were still being worked on. Even though Mr. Kennedy knew about these risks, he still decided to go ahead with the procedure, without telling his wife. Unfortunately, the surgery was a failure and it ruined Rosemary’s ability to talk and walk. In addition to being mentally disabled, she was now physically disabled. The Kennedys decided to send her to Saint Coletta’s, a Catholic facility for the mentally disabled, and she was kept there for almost six decades. 


During Rosemary’s first few years at Saint Coletta’s, she was kept away from her family to work on her treatments. But later, she was reunited with her family and developed a strong bond between her and her sister, Eunice. Eunice grew aware of her sister’s situation and decided to make a change about it. She started doing research and projects on intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the summer of 1962, Eunice started a backyard summer camp for children and adults with disabilities. This very summer camp would later turn into a global competition called Special Olympics. In addition to Eunice’s work, Rosemary’s other family members were doing their part to help people with disabilities. Her sister founded Very Special Arts, an art program designed for those with disabilities. Her brother, John F. Kennedy, helped many care programs and signed major legislations in regards to those with intellectual disabilities. 


I think that Rosemary’s story helped thousands of people all around the world to become their best selves and live their best lives. I think that it was very wrong for her father to schedule such a complicated surgery for Rosemary without all of her family knowing about it. I understand that they did many different things to help her like special treatment and programs, but doing such a risky surgery without much experience was a disaster waiting to happen. Even though Rosemary had a difficult time, she still was able to live until the age 86 and she had a very fulfilling life. Rosemary is recognized all over the world and she has changed many lives during and after her lifetime. 


Do you think Rosemary should or shouldn’t have gotten the procedure?


Was it right that her father made her get the surgery? 


If you were in Rosemary’s place, would you want the surgery even if there was a high risk? 


Rosemary Kennedy - The Eldest Kennedy Daughter 

The Kennedy Family, Rosemary Kennedy 

Rosemary Kennedy's Lobotomy.

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  • Excellent topic choice Anastacia! I knew about this but never read into it so I learned a lot. Thanks! Super job!

  • I do not think that Rosemary should have gotten the lobotomy procedure done. They all knew what the risks of the procedure were before getting it but they put all the bad things behind them. I would not get this procedure done on myself. 

  • I truly believe that Rosemary should not have gotten the procedure done for many reasons. It was the most horrifying at the fact that they all knew the risks and dangers but still did it even while knowing it was a very bad idea. I would never want the procedure done on me.

  • I don't think that Rosemary should've gotten the lobotomy done. Her dad knew the risks and still went on with it which was a bad idea. I don't think that I would want the surgery because of the risks and it is a very serious and scary procedure.

  •  I don't think that Rosemary should have gotton the procedure, however back then there wasn't much help for people with metal/physical disablities. I would not ever want a surgery that poses a high risk, and I would be furious at my family if I were her. 

  • I think that Rosemary should not have gotten the procedure for many reasons, I dont think its right at all the her father made her get it and he should have let her decide if she wanted to or not. I would not want the procedure if I were her because of the high risk there was.

  • I don't think that Rosemary should have gotten the procedure, I think that she should have do a bunch a reshearch before doing the procedure. I don't think that it wasn't right for her father to have made her get the procceddure. No, I think I would have probably not have gotten the procedure.

  • I don't think Rosemary should've gotten the lobotomy. I have heard that most lobotomies were done without a lot of knowledge about the brain, so they weren't entirely safe. I understand that her father wanted her to get help, but he shouldn't have done something that could be that dangerous. 

    • I bet that her father never meant any harm to her and that he was just trying to look out for her, but he should have discussed it with all of his family. 

  • I do not think that there is enough information available to decide if she should or shouldn't of gotten the procedure done but I'm hoping that she did a bunch of research on it before getting it done. I think that is wasn't right for her father to make her get the surgery and that it should've been her own choice.

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