Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Kennedy Curse? Perhaps not all curses are mythical. | Hidden Kennedy delivered from curse (January 10, 2005)

Rosemary Kennedy wasn't brilliant. I gather, from the limited description in this story, that she might have had an average to slightly below average IQ with some focal cognitive defects and learning disabilities.[1]

She was a disappointment to her ambitious father.

At the age of 23, in 1941, her father, Joseph Kennedy, had her lobotomized -- allegedly on the advice of one or more physicians. She spent the rest of her life in an institution. Over the next 40 years all of Joseph's children, save Rosemary, died a violent death.

I knew of Rosemary, I didn't know the story of her lobotomy.

This is a tale worthy of Shakespeare. At this point in my life I don't follow the theater, but a robot could write a play around this tale. Was Joseph Kennedy a complete monster, or only a very flawed human being? Did those physicians really recommend a lobotomy? What was their relationship to the American Eugenics movement, which flourished from 1905 to 1940? What happened to them afterwards? Did they ever face a sort of justice?

Josephy Kennedy suffered for his crimes. Was his suffering just? Even for his crimes, the punishments seem excessive.

[1] Caveat: It would not be surprising, given her age, if in fact Rosemary's true disability was the onset of schizophrenia. That would also better explain the recommendation for lobotomy, in the 1940s all manner of psychosurgery was being misapplied to schizophrenia. It would be typical of the media and many writers to confuse congnitive disabilities with schizophrenia.

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