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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A county doctor believed he could cure prisoner Fred A. Lafferty of his criminal tendencies by one simple method: brain surgery.

Dr. D.F. Sells said he believed Lafferty’s problems were caused by a depression in his skull that could be relieved through trephining – cutting out a circular portion of his skull – and thus relieving the pressure on his brain.

The doctor said this would “result in a change of personal tendencies.” Lafferty’s personal tendencies had landed him in trouble repeatedly. He was currently serving a 90-day sentence at the county honor farm for trying to pass a worthless check while drunk.

Dr. Sells convinced a clearly skeptical house surgeon at Sacred Heart Hospital, Dr. B.H. Roark, to at least accept Lafferty for study.

“I think the fracture, which is an old one, is of slight significance,” said Dr. Roark. “The idea that trephining may change one’s disposition is fanciful rather than scientific. We are willing, however, to take him into Sacred Heart Hospital for a few days and study the case, and then if, upon consultation with the county staff and other physicians, it is deemed advisable, we will perform the operation.”

The article gave no hint about how Lafferty felt about the whole idea.