10 Odd Medical Practices Of The 20th Century

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Medicine throughout the ages has granted us so much to be thankful for. Very rarely do any of us wake up having to fear smallpox or some of the deadliest flu viruses. Syphilis is no longer a death sentence, a bacterial infection guaranteed to devour at us from the inside, consuming our brains as it feeds pervasively throughout us, bringing us a slow, miserable, painful, and agonizing death. We simply see a doctor and take some antibiotics until it goes away a few weeks later. When we have serious injuries or need surgeries, we can pretty safely rest assured that no infection will kill us after seeping into our blood.

Along the course of history, there has been no shortage of strange, bizarre, and macabre medical practices to horrify us to this day. Ancient Romans thought it to be medically beneficial to drink the blood of gladiators, and a few centuries back, tobacco smoke enemas were all the rage. But even the 1900s gave us no shortage of things we can hardly believe were considered medicine. Our barbaric ways of supposed healing aren’t all far back in ancient history; some of them have been practiced by completely sane individuals even in modern times. From frontal lobotomies to drinking radium, here’s a list of ten of the most bizarre medical practices employed during the 20th century. Some of them are still going in the 21st century.

10. Lobotomies

Photo credit: Harris A. Ewing

Probably the most well-known strange medical practice of the past 100 years is the frontal lobotomy. While many know it simply as a quite literally mind-numbing practice that didn’t serve much in the ways of actually healing patients, the lobotomy has a long, rich history and was extremely popular in its heyday in the 1900s. Actually, depending on perspective, lobotomies were considerably effective compared to other options, albeit ethically questionable. To those insane with delusional paranoia who constantly perceive themselves as suffering, a near-coma state of sedation might be a worthwhile trade-off. Seizures and severe personality changes, however, were only two of the many side effects which ended up being some pretty disturbing drawbacks to the practice. By and large, many who received a lobotomy ended up spending the rest of their (often shortened) lives in a vegetative, lethargic state; some patients would barely move or never speak again.

What originated as a complex procedure of cutting a hole into the skull and delivering ethanol into the brain ended up becoming a bit of a circus sideshow by the time the ice pick lobotomy came around. One infamous lobotomist, Walter Freeman (pictured above), ended up performing between 2,500 and 5,000 lobotomies single-handedly; he even did 25 of them in a single afternoon, lining up a row of hospital beds filled with patients and, in front of cameras and an audience, went down the line and lobotomized everyone in the room.[1] While its effects are extreme, and complete mental dullness is an indisputable result of the lobotomy, today, we arguably use many medications for the same result. The real question at hand for the bizarre practice is whether an absolutely blunted mental state is considered preferable to a state of total psychosis.,weird things,weird things, weird things

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