Great and Desperate Cures: The Rise and Decline of Psychosurgery and Other Radical Treatments for Mental Illness

Elliot S. Valenstein, Author Basic Books $19.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-465-02710-1
Neuropsychologist Valenstein (Brain Control, etc.) here offers a critical and academic history of psychosurgery that he deems a ""cautionary tale.'' The same factors that contributed to the rapid, injudicious acceptance of the lobotomy operationdesperate patients and their families, overcrowded mental institutions, sensationalism by the popular media, physicians' self-aggrandizementtoday still play a major role in prematurely promoting ``miracle'' medical techniques, warns the author. Beginning with a chronicle of early psychomedical experimental cures, Valenstein examines the development of shock therapy and the careers of the first psychosurgeon, Egas Moniz, and his successor, Walter Freeman, now infamous for his 10-minute ``ice-pick operation.'' This rather chilling account will foster a profound, and not unhealthy, distrust of science, the medical profession and the media; one hopes its academic nature will not deter the general reader from attempting it. (April 21)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1986
Release date: 03/01/1986
Genre: Nonfiction
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