We'll all need lobotomies to keep from shouting "Don't do it!" April 8, 2008 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Assuming the lobotomy question is for real (and I guess it gets the benefit of the doubt because the poster's previous questions seem innocuous enough), how can it be ethically answered within the guidelines of AskMe: Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer? It's good to see that people linked to Howard Dully's story in the answers, but is there room for saying "You must be insane! How on earth would a lobotomy make meditation easier? Don't even *think* about doing such a thing to yourself!" to the poster while staying within the guidelines? Don't we have an obligation to dissuade askers from doing dangerous things?
posted by amyms to MetaFilter-Related at 8:53 PM (54 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Is this something I'd need a lobotomy to understand?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:56 PM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


I flagged it because it seemed to be a dangerous question.
posted by sweetkid at 8:56 PM on April 8, 2008


What sweetkid said (and did).
posted by fuzzbean at 8:57 PM on April 8, 2008


I was just thinking, this isn't going to last long, when along comes Jessamyn deleting the kinds of comments anyone seriously thinking about this needs to hear. In fact, I'm not sure that this is a serious question, which is why I figured it was going to go. It's possible to take the guidelines WAY to seriously. If someone came along and asked, "What's the right way to slit my wrists," would you delete responses that didn't answer the question?
posted by Dasein at 8:58 PM on April 8, 2008


What if someone answered the question with "Oh yeah, there's this doctor over in such-and-such a town who still performs lobotomies. Here's his contact info. Good luck!"... I mean, that would be "answering the question" but at what cost to the asker? When someone is obviously in a state of mind that's coming from such a psychologically dangerous place, don't we have an obligation to gently point out they need to talk to someone other than a lobotomist?
posted by amyms at 8:59 PM on April 8, 2008


Well, I gave a good faith "don't do that!" answer my best shot, so I guess I'll have to see whether it meets modly muster?
posted by bettafish at 9:01 PM on April 8, 2008


I thought the question was asked more out of curiosity. It's a serious question if you simply consider the poster curious about the potential effects of lobotomy on the process of meditation, and then as a postscript asks the obvious question - is it still done?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2008


You know, the first time i read through the question, I thouht it said "mediCation" and got it wrong. I realize 1) I misread it and 2) it's not a good question for AskMe. Sorry for the delay folks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2008


"You must be insane! How on earth would a lobotomy make meditation easier? Don't even *think* about doing such a thing to yourself!"

Honestly, what I quoted above is not very convincing. It's just an expression of your feelings.

If it's really the case that a lobotomy won't make meditation easier, and is in fact likely to cause the poster substantial and apparently unanticipated harm, then this can be explained.

If someone feels strongly that a lobotomy is a bad idea, but can't actually explain why, then perhaps they really have no business answering the question. If someone can explain why, the facts will speak for themselves if presented calmly and respectfully.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:03 PM on April 8, 2008


In a perfect world, questions that don't have any reasonable way to answer them would receive no replies. The way the site guidelines have it, you must resist the inclination to leave comments that don't positively help the questioner achieve their goals.

No answer is better than a negative one.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:04 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


And then I noticed the TITLE of the freaking post. Ignore my previous comment.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:05 PM on April 8, 2008


I flagged and didn't answer, too. If they seriously think they want a lobotomy - then answering isn't going to help them. And if they *don't* seriously want one, then the question is offensive.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2008


Interestingly I was going to tell him to try mediCaction before a lobotomy.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 PM on April 8, 2008


You know, the first time i read through the question, I thouht it said "mediCation" and got it wrong. I realize 1) I misread it and 2) it's not a good question for AskMe. Sorry for the delay folks.

Ahh, that makes sense, Jessamyn. But, I wish there were some way the question could have stayed up while allowing for some good-sense answers. Obviously the poster needs help.
posted by amyms at 9:16 PM on April 8, 2008


It would be nice to see an answer from the mods on the question the poster is asking here.
posted by 1 at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2008


Hopefully the asker will find his way here, which is where I'll express my interest in knowing what school of meditation he's pursuing, if any. I was under the impression that much of the virtue in meditation is the self-mastery required to achieve your target-state. Having your brain re-wired to make meditation easier seems to defeat the purpose, no? Are short cuts allowed? And even if they are, it strikes me that this is like prescribing beheading as a cure for a headache.
posted by mumkin at 9:29 PM on April 8, 2008


This reminds me of the person who wanted to damage their tongue so they wouldn't eat.
posted by gerryblog at 9:32 PM on April 8, 2008


The vast majority of AskMe questions are based on faulty assumptions.

And the real answer to almost every one is "Moron, why don't you just get a lobotomy?"

Since this is the one case in which the OP is cutting right to the real question, I don't see why we're getting so uptight about it.
posted by bingo at 9:34 PM on April 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


Crap, missed my sit quietly and do nothing post.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:41 PM on April 8, 2008


This reminds me of the person who wanted to damage their tongue so they wouldn't eat.
posted by gerryblog


Well, it theemth thoo be helfing tho fahr.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:44 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


WTF? I hope that was a joke.
posted by homunculus at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2008


"But, I wish there were some way the question could have stayed up while allowing for some good-sense answers. Obviously the poster needs help."

Well, since you asked about ethics:

Everyone here is, the assumption goes (aside from a few noted exceptions), an adult. If an adult wants to harm themselves or pursue a course of action likely to harm only themselves, then I believe that's their decision. I have no problem with smokers smoking per se.

As such, the problem becomes purely pragmatic—it is unlikely that any studies have been done to discuss the qualitative differences between meditative states pre- and post-lobotomy, and anyone who has had a lobotomy is likely an unreliable narrator as to the difference.

But if someone wanted sincerely to get the ol' bottle-in-front-of-me, and I knew where to go to get it done, I'd consider it unethical to withhold that information.

(Yes, Socrates, I'd return the knife.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:20 PM on April 8, 2008


Yeah and while that guy's getting lobotomized we should end the war on drugs.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:30 PM on April 8, 2008


Really, though, I am curious as to how answerers should handle questions from someone who seems to be coming from a dangerous place mental-health-wise. If the mods delete their question, then they've received no help at all. If we humor them and only answer the question as asked, they've received no real constructive help. But if we try to dissuade them from their premise, we might be breaking the guidelines. So, where's the happy medium?
posted by amyms at 10:32 PM on April 8, 2008


Now, in case all that snarking didn't cheer you up, there's one thing that never fails. A nice glass of warm milk, a little nap, and a total frontal lobotomy.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:43 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Really, though, I am curious as to how answerers should handle questions from someone who seems to be coming from a dangerous place mental-health-wise. If the mods delete their question, then they've received no help at all. If we humor them and only answer the question as asked, they've received no real constructive help. But if we try to dissuade them from their premise, we might be breaking the guidelines. So, where's the happy medium?

Well, I believe there has been at least one thread where a poster appeared in some serious mental distress and the mods took action off-site. I think it was a suicide threat but I'm not sure.

This doesn't seem nearly that extreme to me but if someone were truly worried about a poster's health they could always memail them and pass on some helpful resources if they feel the need.
posted by LeeJay at 10:45 PM on April 8, 2008


Don't we have an obligation to dissuade askers from doing dangerous things?

This very same matter came up when discussing amniocentesis, a procedure that carries certain risks to the developing fetus, and was also subsequently discussed on Metatalk because of a dispute over what consisted an appropriate answer.

Ultimately, it is possible to provide both the pros and cons of an answer without hyperbole — and indeed this occurred in the amnio thread.

Here, a lobotomy can indeed be performed safely by a trained neurosurgeon, though it is likely that the asker does not clearly understand all the consequences of said procedure. Relevant answers will likely include an assessment of behavioral and other post-op consequences when arguing against lobotomization.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:55 PM on April 8, 2008


That's a good example, Blazecock, thanks.

I'm not usually a hand-wringing "Oh my gawd, let's save the people from themselves!" type of person, but something about the way the lobotomy thread was written gave me a lot of concern and I probably overreacted by bringing it here to MeTa.
posted by amyms at 11:00 PM on April 8, 2008


something about the way the lobotomy thread was written gave me a lot of concern

I know, I totally agree with you and was ready to flag it myself.

Without surmising about the asker's situation, I think the question is really about something else, and the lobotomy info is a cover for asking for help in a different way.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to answer that question, if that's even the case here. Anyway, even if my and your suspicions are correct, it's exceedingly unlikely an ethical doctor would ever recommend or perform that particular procedure, anyway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 PM on April 8, 2008


Well, the question is pointless since you can't get a lobotomy anymore. No where reputable anyway. To the best of my knowledge at least. I can't even imagine how fucked up you'd have to be to actually one nowadays. That's on par with those unnecessary amputation freaks.
posted by puke & cry at 11:18 PM on April 8, 2008


The whole idea of an elective lobotomy sounds like a Monty Python skit. ::ahem:: It might go a little something... like this.

Doctor: 'ello! What seems to be the problem?
Patient: I'd like a lobotomy please.
Doctor: A what?
Patient: A lobotomy. Please.
Doctor: Do you 'ave any idear what a lobotomy is?
Patient: Yes, it's where the frontal lobe of the brain is removed.
Doctor: Oh, so that's what a lobotomy is!
Patient: Sometimes the lobe is scrambled rather than removed.
Doctor: Scrambled! That's brilliant! I love scrambled eggs! Does it taste like scrambled eggs?
Patient: Well, no it tastes a bit more like brain. But with cilantro added.
Doctor: Cilantro?! Are you mad? You don't bleedin' add cilantro to scrambled brains! You'd 'ave to be missing a frontal lobe to do that!
Patient: No, no, no, you don't add cilantro, it already tastes of cilantro!
Doctor: Well now, why would you want yer bleedin' brain scrambled if it tastes of cilantro!
Patient: I thought I could add some lemon juice.
Doctor: What?!
Patient: To lessen the taste of the cilantro.
Doctor: You've gone right off the deep end, you twit, you can't bloody kill the taste of cilantro with lemon juice! You're thinking of salt!
Patient: What? I should add salt to offset the cilantro?
Doctor: No, no, no, you pathetic 'alf-brained nitwit! Lemon juice offsets the taste of salt, not cilantro! You can't fight the taste of cilantro. You'd 'ave to complement it with another spice.
Patient: What about bouillon? Or a nice hollandaise?
Doctor: 'ollandaise?! That's ridiculous! Look. You don't think I got to be a doctor without going to culinary school do you?
Patient: Well - no - I suppose...
Doctor: (louder) And did you go to culinary school?
Patient: Well, no, but I --
Doctor: Did your mum teach you how to cook on weekends while you wore a frilly apron?
Patient: Well, I suppose not, but --
Doctor: Did you ever have any formal culinary training? Did you ever work in a kitchen? Did you ever, at any time, even cook a single Beef Wellington? DID YOU?!
Patient: Look, mate, I didn't expect a bloody Spanish Inquisition!
Spanish Inquisition (bursting through the door): Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:27 PM on April 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


lol klangklangston ... "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."

Over reaction filter... Do you really think they wanted a lobotomy? They wanted help which could come from many places. MeFi just blew somebody off because they asked for help in an odd way. For Shame!
posted by zengargoyle at 12:25 AM on April 9, 2008


So you think the lobotomy was a metaphor, zengargoyle? I wish I shared your optimism, but sorry, I'm in the literal elective brain damage camp on this one.
posted by mumkin at 12:44 AM on April 9, 2008


Anyone who has tried meditation knows how difficult it is to not think about the past or the future.

Even if the poster were to able to secure a lobotomy safely, I would caution against this. In this Askme, someone mentioned something similar; that having no awareness of the future and past is an ideal state, and if you can go in and out of that state as you please, then I suppose it could be. But I can assure you there is nothing transcendent about being trapped in the present. Being unable to conceptualize the future and your place in it makes it very difficult to plan and control your life. You're highly susceptible to the pitfalls your own impulsivity and animal nature. Even if you realize what's going on in your mind, you have to work very hard to move yourself forward, and it complicates matters when you have trouble processing your past as well. Unless you don't care what happens to you or the people your actions affect, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about the past and future, because whether you can see them or not, there are still consequences for everything you do. As was suggested in the answers in the link, it's really the opposite of "mindfulness."

So the state this lobotomy is intended to induce is a nice place to visit, but take it from a resident, you don't want to live there.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:34 AM on April 9, 2008


Over reaction filter... Do you really think they wanted a lobotomy?

Nah, the asker was obviously confusing lobotomy with trepanation. Though it would be a hell of a mistake to make...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:48 AM on April 9, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner : You've been listening to streaming Goon Show, 24/7, since it was posted here, 'aven'tchoo?
posted by Dave Faris at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2008


How on earth would a lobotomy make meditation easier?

worked for me.
posted by quonsar at 6:09 AM on April 9, 2008


Ultimately, it is possible to provide both the pros and cons of an answer without hyperbole

Amen. What breaks the guidelines are the outraged emotional freakouts against the asker. Find a way to question the asker's premises and warn them away from danger without shrieking at them like a banshee. That's always been ok; it's the *way* you do it that counts.
posted by mediareport at 6:12 AM on April 9, 2008


worked for me.

i think we were talking about lobotimising oneself.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 AM on April 9, 2008


To me, it kind of seems like taking steroids for an athlete (if it could be proven to be efficacious at all). Would one really want to be the Roger Clemens of the meditation world?

No, I think lobotomies have no place in the world of competitive meditation.
posted by malocchio at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2008


No, I think lobotomies have no place in the world of competitive meditation.

In the words of Frank Lombardi, "There ain't no 'I' in 'lobotomy'."
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:43 AM on April 9, 2008


Well, the question is pointless since you can't get a lobotomy anymore.

A friend could easily do it. Heck, people do self trepenation sometimes.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:46 AM on April 9, 2008


LobotoME!

However, to be serious for a sec and to answer amyms question, we do have a set of "things we do" when someone who seems like they are clearly in some sort of real trouble posts something AnonyMe or no that doesn't make it to AskMe.

As you probably know, we have a prohibition against suicide questions both because of the really sticky personal ethical issues involved plus the general community issues where if people perceive someone to be in immediate danger, they want to help and want us to pull out the stops to let them do that. So, to this end, we take these sorts of questions seriously on our end and write the poster back explaining the policy and offering links to (usually local) resources as well as just the offer of someone to listen if they're in a bad space. Historically if we know the poster somewhat and we really think there's a mess brewing, we might get in touch with their local colleagues but this is a REAL outlier and I only think we've done it once or twice ever.

There's a difference between something like that and the more "this person seems totally non-logical about this" sorts of questions (the "someone is spying on me through my TV" types) and those we deal with on more of a case by case basis. Sometimes it's useful to have a bunch of people in the community saying "what you think is happening is likely not happening" or especially "I used to think that too and it turned out I had an undiagnosed mental illness and here's what helped" which I think is more valuable than a mod saying "um, you can't do this here" This is especially true when the source of agitation for the OP is some sort of power structure in the first place. There have been times when our response to a person in this sort of crisis has been alleged to be "part of it" and that always feels pretty terrible.

So, to the original question, I don't think we have an obligation to prevent people from doing things that are dangerous per se, but we do try to do a ballpark assessment to see if people are 1. in real trouble 2. gaming/trolling 3. in some sort of a place where an odd AskMe question is actually a terrible way to work out whatever their stated problem is. That last part doesn't come up very often and usually if it does we'll all get together as mods and try to figure out what to do and not just have one of us make a flags-based determination.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


competitive meditation

How do the judges score this? The first one to reach total inner peace?
posted by quin at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2008


Yes, but with bonus points for style.
posted by malocchio at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2008


I no longer follow competitive meditation because of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Also, there's all these Asian fellers.
posted by Mister_A at 8:25 AM on April 9, 2008


LOLDHARMACOMBAT
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:26 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


well, they aren't called "lobotomies" anymore, but brain surgery that includes severing, removing or destroying parts of the brain is still done to treat various things (OCD, epilepsy, etc). But it's never been an elective procedure.
posted by mdn at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2008


(that is, a doc wouldn't do it just to help you with your meditation - it's elective in the sense that you have to agree it's worth the risk to undergo it, but it has to be medically prescribable, and then it's up to you whether to live with the disease or the treatment)
posted by mdn at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2008


How do the judges score this?

If you meet the judge, kill the judge.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2008


Wow all... I didn't expect my question to cause this much of a stir, but I can see how I communicated poorly.

Worry not, I'm not in any dark place where I would attempt something like this for myself, it was just a curiosity question to see if anyone with frontal lob damage could comment on meditation.

I will certainly be more restrained in my future questions.
posted by bumper314 at 4:00 PM on April 9, 2008


So, did you confuse lobotomy with trepenation?
posted by Dave Faris at 4:03 PM on April 9, 2008


Hey Dave,

No, I know what both are. I've experimented with standing on my head (which is supposed to simulate the effects of a trepenation) while trying to meditate, but I didn't notice any difference. Good guess though.
posted by bumper314 at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2008


Thanks for your reply, Jessamyn...

And, bumper314, I'm glad you're not considering a lobotomy for real. I'll try to be more restrained in my reactions to your future questions. ;)
posted by amyms at 4:49 PM on April 9, 2008


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