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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 10, 2006


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2006;295(18):2184. doi:10.1001/jama.295.18.2184-b

One or two stories have been recently circulated in the newspaper press of cases of marked moral reformation following operative procedures on the brain, and the usual tendency to generalization from such has been very much in evidence. Some of the newspaper writers see a prospect ahead, and not in the very distant future, when criminality will be considered a surgical disease and reform methods take this direction more or less exclusively. There is no doubt that if surgery was carried sufficiently far a good deal of crime could be prevented. Amputation of a pickpocket's fingers, for example, would check his operations at least for a while, and it is easy to imagine other reforms of the same character. It is safe to say, also, that any very extensive application of brain surgery on the criminal class would be likely to diminish their number, but the old-fashioned methods of reform by moral suasion and measures based on the theory of human responsibility will probably be the ones to be relied on in the future as in the past.