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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  • I do not think she should have gotten the surgery because there is easier or better ways to do it. I do not think it was okay for her father to make a decison like that. If it was me I would still say no. 

  • I think that she should have gotten the surgery done. Though in the end it really wasn't her decision. Though her father ended up making her get the surgery I think that it would have been better for her to choose whether she gets the surgery or not. This is a very interesting story. 

    • I agree that it should have been up to her to get the surgery, but she might not have been in the right mental state to make a decision like that. 

  • I do not think that she should have gotten the procedure but I guess it wasn't really her who decided to get the lobotomy. I do not think that it was right that her father made her get the surgery, especially when it did not have much research done on it. I would not want the surgery.

  • I don't think she should have gotten the surgery, solely because there are other ways to get better and feel healthier. A lobotomy procedure has many negative impacts on a person, infact there's more harm done than good. Most lobotomies have left a patient with a lifelong disability or permanently ill or the procedure killed them. If I was her, I would've refused to get the surgery. I would spend the rest of my life if it took that long to find a cure to my illness. 

    • It is true that most lobotomies leave a patient permanently disabled and that is what happened to Rosemary. 

  • I think she should of probally gotten the procedures . No, you should not make people get surgeries if you don't want to. If my parents made me do that i would hate them the rest of my life.  I don't know if i would, mordern medicine is a lot better then before so maybe.

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