March 1, 2024

Dark past of Danish disabled

More than 300 lobotomised between 1947 and 1983

More than 300 mentally handicapped Danes,
including children, were lobotomised between 1947 and 1983 and many died from
the operation, according to a report in AFP. Historian Jesper Vaczy Kragh
outlined to the Danish media the findings of a book to be published next month:
“Doctors did not count on curing them completely, but wanted to pacify
them, perhaps to better their condition… The results of such operations
generally were not good, and some 7.6 percent did not survive.”

“What happened with people with mental
handicaps is worse than what happened with psychiatric patients,” he said.
Many operations were performed on children as young as six, even though their
brains were not yet completely developed.

Between 1947 and 1983, when lobotomies were
banned in Denmark, around 4,500 Danes had the operation. But few people were
aware that many mentally handicapped people were subjected to the procedure.

The president of the national association
of handicapped people, Sytter Kristensen, was shocked. “Those were highly
educated people (doctors) who were taking advantage of defenseless people
without being sure of having the slightest positive result,” she told the
newspaper Kristelig Dagbladet.

Health Minister Bertel Haarder said that
doctors ignored the dignity of the children. “The explanation is that, for
a long time, mentally handicapped people were not regarded as equal. Their
lives were considered to be without value,” he said. ~ AFP,
Sept 24

Michael Cook
mentally disabled