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For immediate release
November 9, 2005
Chad Campbell, NPR: | 202.513.2304


Documentary Continues All Things Considered Tradition of Long-Form Programming


Washington, D.C. -- NPR's afternoon news magazine All Things Considered will broadcast a landmark 22-minute documentary on its November 16 edition: the first-person account of a 56-year-old man who underwent an 'ice pick' lobotomy as a child and uncovers the truth about it 40 years later.

The documentary is the latest in a regular series of long-form pieces airing on All Things Considered. Among them have been three Peabody-winning documentaries from Sound Portraits Productions, producer of "My Lobotomy:" "Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse," "Witness to an Execution" and "Yiddish Radio Project." More recently, NPR News journalists have provided All Things Considered with long-form investigations examining how hurricane emergency plans broke down in New Orleans - one of the first media examinations on the crisis - and an October 27 investigation into the chain of U.S. accountability during the last hours of the only Abu Ghraib detainee whose death was ruled a homicide.

"My Lobotomy" focuses on Howard Dully, whose transorbital lobotomy was performed when he was 12. Invented in the 1940s, the simple procedure was praised as a miracle cure for the mentally ill, with more than 2500 people undergoing it until the introduction of psychiatric drugs made the surgery obsolete. Rather than stopping, its inventor began performing it on patients who might not be considered mentally ill, including children with symptoms no more serious than anxiety. Dully was one of those, lobotomized in San Jose's Doctor's Hospital.

In 2000, Dully began to research his past and connected with Sound Portraits' Dave Isay and Piya Kochhar. The documentary follows Dully's personal journey around the country to interview other lobotomy patients, their families and witnesses to the operation. He also becomes the first such patient to view his records, locked in archives in Washington, D.C. - seeing images of himself as a child with the tools in his eye sockets. "This is my odyssey," says Dully. "Everyone has one thing they have to do before they die, and this is mine."

As Isay explains, "These voices create an unforgettable sound portrait of a drastic and desperate treatment, a cautionary tale of a doctor blinded by ambition and the extraordinary story of one man with the courage to shine a light on the secret that's haunted his life."

"'My Lobotomy' is a remarkable tale about a man coming to terms with a terrible event that changed his life. It's a shocking, terrifying story, but also a story that is moving and, ultimately, uplifting," said Christopher Turpin, Executive Producer, All Things Considered.

In explaining the prevalence of lengthy features and special reports on All Things Considered, Turpin added, "Long-form pieces are a part of All Things Considered's tradition. Since the program began in 1971, it's been a refuge for documentarians and investigative reporters seeking the luxury of time to tell a story. And, contradicting the pundits who claim that contemporary audiences want information with no context, it's been amazingly well-received by listeners through all the years."

All Things Considered is NPR's signature afternoon news magazine and reaches nearly 11 million listeners weekly on 625 NPR Member stations across the country. It also can be heard in more than 100 countries through NPR Worldwide. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit

The producers for "My Lobotomy "are Piya Kochhar and Dave Isay; editor is Gary Covino. Project Advisor is Jack El-Hai. Major Funding for "My Lobotomy" was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Chad Campbell

For Sound Portraits Productions
Dan Klores Communications
Jo Flattery / Debra Carey / Gillian Kocher

NPR is renowned for journalistic excellence and standard-setting news and entertainment programming. A privately supported, non-profit, membership organization, NPR serves a growing audience of 26 million Americans each week in partnership with more than 780 public radio stations. International partners in cable, satellite and short-wave services make NPR programming accessible anywhere in the world. With original online content and audio streaming, offers hourly newscasts, special features and eight years of archived audio and information.

Sound Portraits Productions, a non-profit company based in New York City, is one of the country's most acclaimed documentary production houses. Under the direction of Dave Isay, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur "Genius" grant, its mission is to tell the stories of ordinary Americans with dignity, celebrating the power and poetry of their words. Over the past dozen years Sound Portraits documentaries, broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered, have won numerous Peabody Awards as well as every other major broadcasting award. Sound Portraits latest collaboration with NPR is the acclaimed national oral history initiative StoryCorps, broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition.