For the Record
Rosemary Kennedy died yesterday. She was 86. This daughter of Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, sister of the late President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, was lobotomized without her consent in 1941—at the age of 23—by authorization of her father and without the knowledge of her mother. Joseph Kennedy made this decision because he feared that his mildly mentally retarded daughter might embarrass the family and jeopardize the political ambitions he had for his oldest son, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who died later in World War II. According to a biography of the family, Rosemary's father was told by doctors that the lobotomy would eliminate her erratic behavior. It reduced her to a passive incoherent being who was unable to care for herself. She spent the rest of her life in institutions.
In 1949, eight years after Rosemary's operation, neurologist Egas Moniz of Portugal won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for inventing lobotomy.
According to Reuters, "Rosemary was the inspiration for sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics for mentally disabled athletes."
A statement issued by the Kennedy family said in part: "From her earliest years, her mental retardation was a continuing inspiration to each of us, and a powerful source of our family's commitment to do all we can to help all persons with disabilities live full and productive lives. Millions of people of all ages have greater hope today because of Rosemary."