Patient H.M

Patient H.M

A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets

eBook - 2016
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For readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks comes a propulsive, haunting journey into the secret history of brain science by Luke Dittrich, whose grandfather performed the surgery that created the most studied human research subject of all time: the amnesic known as Patient H.M. "Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King in a piercing study of one of psychiatric medicine's darker hours. . . . A mesmerizing, maddening story and a model of journalistic investigation."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry's seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today. Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich's grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author's investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather's relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves. Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world. Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.
Publisher: 2016
ISBN: 9780679643807
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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k
kakacurt
Jun 01, 2017

Especially interesting as it gives the history of neurosurgery.

d
DadCat
Feb 08, 2017

This is a book packed with the good and bad of mental health care history. It is subjective but also factual. The author also has a personal quest to learn about his neurosurgeon grandfather. If you are squimish this is not for you. The early days of mental health procedures are horrible. But if you wish to understand that past this book is well done.

w
wendyfath
Jan 11, 2017

Patient H.M. is a very well researched, fascinating, macabre and heartrending insight into the history of neurosurgery. It's amazing to learn that surgery on the brain was done by ancient Egyptians. It's nothing short of disturbing to learn about the development and history of the infamous lobotomy. Oh, medical ethics, how important it is!

I strongly recommend to anyone studying medicine or anyone interested in medical ethics. Dittrich's narrative certainly makes one think about the "Do no harm" motto and the dilemmas that are almost unavoidable in Medicine.

Oh, yes, and this book IS written in an engaging narrative style -- although somewhat circuitous! Dittrich DOES like to 'rabbit trail' but he eventually returns to a story, weaving the narrative threads in an interesting way.

By the way, Dittrich's 'main character' H.M. was lobotomized and became the most studied person in the history of Medicine. Dittrich's grandfather was the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery.

m
MplsTA
Sep 24, 2016

An interesting accounting of the history of the lobotomy and lobotomy-like procedures told by the grandson of one of the first neurosurgeons practicing this surgery.

The book tells the story of patient H.M. who receives a procedure which was to help with his epileptic fits. They include transcripts of interviews with patent H.M. through the years. The results are obvious to the reader.

Overall an interesting book. But pivoting back and forth between the grandmother with mental illness, the lobotomizing grandfather surgeon and patient H.M., I sometimes felt lost.

Also, there are many accounts of those poor souls who received this barbaric surgery and were never the same. Unnoticed by society as many seemed to be "throw away" cases where the mentally ill were abandoned by family and friends and sent to the nearest institutions where unfortunately they were preyed upon.

This book is not for the squeamish.

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wendyfath
Jan 11, 2017

wendyfath thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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