Published: 28/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 5966 Page 34

OK, all you do is you pull the eyelid forwards, take an ice pick, slip it up the tear duct and thrust it up between the eyeball and the eyelid. Then you push the tip of the pick against the orbital bone at the top of the eye until it gives way and you swing the ice pick from side to side.

Hey presto! You're a lobotomist. Now do the same on the other side, and the whole thing will be done in 10 minutes.

You will have to get used to this kind of thing if you read The Lobotomist by Jack El-Hai, the latest biography of Walter Freeman.

The maverick genius was keen to rid the world of psychiatric disease, a public health menace that was overcrowding the institutions of the time - bulging with patients whose low morale, medical stagnation and political invisibility he found repugnant.

The book is lightened by the odd quip ('You can change your mind, but not like I can change it'), but mainly it describes the various assaults to the brain that one might expect. So if you're keen to have a go, but are without an operating theatre, never mind - Freeman did most of them in his office. He just gave loads of electroconvulsive therapy beforehand, in lieu of anaesthesia.

Be brave: the procedure is eminently do-able by those of us unencumbered with surgical training. After all, Freeman wasn't a surgeon - he was a neurologist.

Steve Collins is deputy chief executive of Surrey and Sussex Hospitals trust.