Tuesday, 11 December 2012

from mental illness to the biomedical model and irreversible brain surgery

I am very concerned about the NMD - neurosurgery for mental disorder - going on at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, at the Advanced Interventions Service.  Or brain surgery for mental illness, where a patient is put under a general anaesthetic, a hole drilled into their brain, a probe inserted and an electric current destroys brain tissue.  Regardless of whether it's a small hole and a very small area of brain tissue, why is this happening to vulnerable people?  Experimental brain surgery taking us back to the lobotomies of old.

All the techniques for NMD are carried out on the frontal lobes of the brain.  Mind says "This area contains the limbic system, which is concerned with your emotional responses such as rage, fear and joy, and ‘unconscious’ physical responses, such as changes in heart rate and blood pressure.".  The surgery takes about an hour and a half, because of scans monitoring the probe.  Mind also says "There is no international agreement on the best target site for the probe, and different techniques are used at different treatment centres.".

I had to go to the Mind website to get the full facts about NMD as I couldn't find it all on the Dundee AIS website.  Which looked more technical and medical, therefore not as accessible for the ordinary person on the street.  When you look at their 'Home' page it seems that they are just one of over 70 national services in Scotland, no different from say breast screening or cochlear implants or bone marrow transplants.

But this is misleading and the fact is that mental disorder or mental illness hasn't been scientifically proved.  There is no absolute proof that mental illness is biological or can be identified with brain scans.  This is pure conjecture and speculation.  Many people have not accepted the biomedical model of mental illness and have completely recovered from mental ill health, psychiatric labelling, hospitalisation and psychiatric drugging.  I can testify to this, and know many others who have done the same.

I am convinced of the need to move away from the biomedical model of mental illness, even more so now when I hear of people resorting to brain surgery and doctors thinking they are helping.  As if taking away feelings and brain tissue will somehow make life less painful.  The psychiatric drugs aren't working although they may/do give relief to some/many but for heaven's sake leave off the brain surgery.   It's irreversible and experimental.  We don't want to be going backwards in time, to lobotomies and 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest'.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more, Chrys. It is appalling that vulnerable people are still being treated in this way.