Psychopathology, Narcissistic killer and Noble Prize winner

In 1968, Prosenjit Poddar, an Indian student went to California for studies, there he met a lady called Tatiana Tarasoff at a dance class in California. They dated briefly, but she rejected him. Poddar, could not handle rejection and kept asking Tatiana why she was rejecting him, he went into depression and was recommended for treatment.


He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. During treatment he told his therapist that he wanted to kill Tatiana. Therapist was in dilemma, if he told police about this he was violating confidentiality clause with his patient, if he didn’t he was endangering life of a person. He decided to inform police about it and told them to confine Poddar to hospital, but Poddar convinced campus police he was not dangerous.

In the summer of 1969, after she returned from a vacation, Poddar stabbed Tarasoff to death with a kitchen knife. Poddar was convicted and deported back to India after his conviction was overturned. Her parents sued the campus police for failing to warn that their daughter was in danger.

This led to the famous Tarasoff decision, which ruled physicians now must warn potential victims of a psychiatric patient.

Poddar was lucky, had he committed this crime two decades earlier he would have most likely undergone lobotomy.

At the 1935 International Neurological Conference in London, Portuguese neurologist Antônio Egas Moniz encountered the work of Fulton and Jacobsen who had observed behavioural changes in chimpanzees following removal of the frontal lobes.


Together with his assistant Almeida Lima, Moniz initially adapted the technique for humans by drilling holes in the skull and injecting alcohol into the frontal lobes. The procedure of parietal prefrontal leucotomy was later developed, involving severing fibre tracts between the thalamus and the frontal lobes with a retractable wire loop or ‘leucotome’.  This became popular technique to control psychological disorders esp. schizophrenia.

In 1949, Moniz was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine with the Swiss physiologist Walter Hess.

The American psychiatrist Walter Freeman further developed this by accessing the frontal lobes through the eye sockets (trans-orbital leucotomy or lobotomy). The procedure was eventually abandoned as a therapy for schizophrenia with the advent of the phenothiazines.



In 1945, one of this patients shot Dr Egas Moniz in this spine, due to which he became an invalid . He died in Lisbon in 1955.


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