The Lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy

By on July 19, 2013

Rosemary Kennedy was lobotomized at the age of 23 to calm her violent mood swings and spent the rest of her life incapacitated.
Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy in 1941 left her permanently incapacitated

Rosemary Kennedy, the younger sister of John F. Kennedy, was lobotomized at the age of 23. Doctors recommended the procedure to calm her violent mood swings in 1941.

Dr. James W. Watts, who carried out the lobotomy with Dr. Walter Freemen, explained the crude procedure in the book The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty he Founded by Ronald Kessler.

With Rosemary awake, under a mild tranquilizer, Watts made a surgical incision “no more than an inch” in her brain through her skull. He then used an instrument that looked like a butter knife to cut brain tissue. As Watts cut, Freeman asked Rosemary questions, had her recite the Lord’s Prayer, count backwards, etc.

“We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded,” Watts explained.

When she began to become incoherent, they stopped.

Rosemary Kennedy before the lobotomy

Rosemary spent the rest of her life incapacitated, under the care of nuns at an institution in Wisconsin until her death in 2005, at the age of 86.

16 Comments

  1. leonardo rafael mazzini sosa

    June 17, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    This nothing has to do with being or not a Kennedy; it only shows how what a culture accepts as truth, is based always more in opinion leaders asseverations than in objetive facts. It shows that even the ones in power, fall in mainstream beliefs.

  2. Kathy Thureen

    March 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    how awful

  3. Mike anthony

    October 29, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    The criminal Kennedys got what they deserve. Who knows how many poor souls Joe Kennedy had murdered in his bootleg days.

    • Christian Newton

      June 17, 2017 at 3:34 am

      The sins of the father aren’t the daughter to bear.
      Have some sympathy for the poor girl,
      she had to live under the same roof as him

  4. eternalwytch

    December 19, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    She was bipolar, but nothing was known about it then. It was easy to send away women and girls back then.

    • Cathy

      February 2, 2018 at 2:52 am

      She wasn’t bipolar. She was a normal teenager. Or at least a teenager living with the values of what she was taught by how she saw others in her family live.

      Her father did NOT want anything to risk his son becoming POTUS, so he HAD her lobotomized, against the mothers wishes and without her knowledge. HE DID that to her. So sick and wrong.

      And look into how this family got their money.

      Being poor doesn’t make you trash, but these people WERE trash and got rich in illegal ways. The head of the clan USED that money to buy his way to the top, so to speak. They then became the ‘ROYAL family’ people idolized. But they are nothing but trash that came from trash.

      Research it yourself. Many examples in the whole Kennedy clan of what they really are.

  5. Margie Lazou

    October 16, 2014 at 2:56 am

    This is shocking. Bu then again most of modern medicine is based on cruel and barbaric practices.

  6. Karen Lynn Thompson Miller

    October 14, 2014 at 7:30 am

    absolutely deplorable.

    • ED

      September 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Not really surprising to me ,Joe Kennedy was a power hungery gangster.

  7. Tissy

    October 14, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Absolutely horrific she was 23 years old!

  8. Karl Jensen

    May 28, 2014 at 11:24 am

    This speaks volumes of some of the Kennedy clan, willing to destroy a life and pretend it never happened. Both parents were totally responsible even though Rose pretended she had no part in it and both Robert and President John F Kennedy on several occasions lied about their sister to further their political career. Shameful.

    • cate

      July 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      JFK did pass the Community Mental Health Act which was intended to combat the deplorable conditions of mental institutions at the time. It’s been speculated that this was a direct result of what his sister went through. He didn’t publicly denounce the actions of his mother and father, as many of us would hope, but it seems he did try to do right by her in his own way. He wasn’t by any means the monster that his father was.
      Unfortunately, a lot of people, as they do today, believed so strongly in the authority of doctors that they were willing to let butchers like Freeman cut on their loved ones, thinking it could help them. Did you know he practiced his transorbital lobotomies on corpses using an icepick?

      • Cathy

        February 2, 2018 at 2:54 am

        No, he wasn’t a monster. Just a liar and a cheater. So that makes it ok.

  9. Maggie Elmer

    April 29, 2014 at 3:20 am

    Barbaric and cruel. These things were often done to spare a family the embarrassment of an unruly child or woman. These were heavily guarded secrets.

  10. Anunciadora de Paz

    August 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    this sucks…

  11. lin

    July 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    This barbaric procedure should never have happened. I am so very sorry for her and all the others who were treated like this

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