Last Resort

Last Resort : Psychosurgery and the Limits of Medicine

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During the 1940s and 1950s, tens of thousands of Americans underwent some form of psychosurgery; that is, their brains were operated upon for the putative purpose of treating mental illness. From today's perspective, such medical practices appear foolhardy at best, perhaps even barbaric; most commentators thus have seen in the story of lobotomy an important warning about the kinds of hazards that society will face whenever incompetent or malicious physicians are allowed to overstep the boundaries of valid medical science. Last Resort, first published in 1998, challenges the previously accepted psychosurgery story and raises new questions about what we should consider its important lessons.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 576 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 32mm | 940g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New.
  • 5 Tables, unspecified; 24 Halftones, unspecified; 23 Line drawings, unspecified
  • 0521353718
  • 9780521353717

Table of contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Psychiatry's renaissance; 2. Sufficient promise; 3. Certain benefit; 4. Active treatment; 5. Human salvage; 6. Localized decisions; 7. The politics of precision; 8. Medicine controlled; Epilogue and conclusion; Appendix.
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Review quote

' ... impressive work ... Regrettably, Pressman died shortly after finishing this work. Had he lived, he would undoubtedly have made further important contributions to medical history'. Hugh Freeman, Nature 'This history of lobotomy by Jack Pressman has been eagerly awaited ... The explanatory framework he offers is rich and rewarding ... Last Resort has impressive strengths. It is impeccably researched, and Pressman has an ear for the telling quotation.' Roy Porter, The Times Higher Education Supplement 'It is impeccably researched, and Pressman has an ear for the telling quotation: and it transcends One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest caricatures to offer a balanced counter to the anti-psychiatry onslaught, seeking to understand the psycho-surgeon without providing an apologia for them.' Roy Porter, The Times Higher Education Supplement "The physician's maxim to 'do no harm' never clashes more with the desperate need to 'do something' then in the case of psychosurgery. Jack Pressman's thorough analysis in Last Resort has deep implications for the decisions that doctors make every day." Dr. Michael Brown, Nobel Laureate, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas "To cut into a person's brain on rather dubious scientific grounds seems like the ultimate in medical imperialism. But as the late Jack Pressman shows in this impressive but flawed work, the story is much more complex...Pressman's main point is that much of the condemnation of leuctotomy has taken no account of its history, in that it ignores the clinical and administrative problems faced by those who used it and has an unreal view of the actual process of mediccal advance...Regrettably, Pressman died shortly after finishing this work. Had he lived, he would undoubtedly have made further important contributions to medical history." Hugh Freeman, Nature "...first-rate...." Donald W. Goodwin MD, JAMA "Last Resort is medical history at its best....it illuminates the meaning of a misguided therapeutic innovation so as to shed light on the dilemmas medicine continues to face in assessing therapeutic options. Pressman has conducted a close, careful, and thoroughly documented examination of original sources. This book is much more than an important contribution to medical history....Every student and practitioner in psychiatry, psychology, and social work--in short, any student who wants to understand contemporary psychiatry and medicine--will find Last Resort extremely rewarding. It should become required reading for all psychiatric house officers. We owe Jack Pressman an enormous debt for Last Resort." Leon Eisenberg, MD; The New England Journal of Medicine "Jack Pressman has written a truly important book that addresses fundamental questions about the nature of medical progress and therapeutic effectiveness. This book is all the more remarkable for exploring these questions by way of one of the most discredited medical interventions of the twentieth century, namely, lobotomy." Joel Braslow, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences "Pressman's project is so vast that any single chapter could stand on its own as an independent, well-written monograph. The originality of Pressman's topic, his staggering amount of research, and the cogency of his theme are impressive, but it is the depth of his analysis and the subtlety of his synthesis that set his work apart. Historians of medicine and neuroscience in particular will welcome this book, but any historian will read it profitably." Thomas P. Gariepy, Isis "...a well-written, thorough understanding of psychosurgery and the surrounding feelings, pro and con, at the height of its popularity." George B. Murray, Journal of Interdisciplinary History "...long, detailed, and engaging book..." Elizabeth Lunbeck, Journal of the History of Medicine "...well-documented, definitive study of the rise and fall of psychosurgery...hist owrk inspires friends and admirers to write their own social histories of American medicine and psychology." Westwick
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