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The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enchancement Paperback – November 9, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679758356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679758358
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,490,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“The authors shrewdly look backward at the history of medical innovation over the past century. . . Their prescription for society is wise” --The New York Times

“Is being short a medical problem that warrants treatment? What about the diminished strength that accompanies lower testosterone levels in men as they age? . . . These are among the provocative questions that . . . a pair of eminent medical historians from Columbia University thoughtfully explore in their new book.” --The Washington Post

“A thoroughly documented and readable book. ‘What science creates medicine rapidly dispenses,’ [the Rothmans] warn, and this uncritical acceptance by both physician and consumer is precisely the problem.” --Sherwin Nuland, The New York Review of Books

“An important contribution to the debate about medical enhancement” —The New England Journal of Medicine

From the Inside Flap

What does it mean to live in a time when medical science can not only cure the human body but also reshape it? How should we as individuals and as a society respond to new drugs and genetic technologies? Sheila and David Rothman address these questions with a singular blend of history and analysis, taking us behind the scenes to explain how scientific research, medical practice, drug company policies, and a quest for peak performance combine to exaggerate potential benefits and minimize risks. They present a fascinating and factual story from the rise of estrogen and testosterone use in the 1920s and 1930s to the frenzy around liposuction and growth hormone to the latest research into the genetics of aging. The Rothmans reveal what happens when physicians view patients? unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their bodies?short stature, thunder thighs, aging?as though they were diseases to be treated.

The Pursuit of Perfection takes us from the early days of endocrinology (the belief that you are your hormones) to today?s frontier of genetic enhancements (the idea that you are your genes). It lays bare the always complicated and sometimes compromised positions of science, medicine, and commerce. This is the book to read before signing on for the latest medical fix.

From the Hardcover edition.

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ethicist on April 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this book the first day it went on sale (in hardcover), as the topic, which has been hotly discussed for so long is not only an interest for me but it is a passion, a profession, and is intimately related to the subjects of both my Masters and my Phd.

I have read, I believe, most of the literature on this topic, written reviews for many, critiqued many more still in the pipelines.

Therefore, it is with great authority that I say that this is one of the weakest works on the subject. The authors clearly have no medical education, and make no excuses for it. This is fine for a historian (which David Rothman and Sheila Rothman are), but not for one who wishes to work in the field of bioethicism.

To do so requires not just a strong opinion, which these authors have and use to preach at us ad-nauseum, but a clear understanding of the facts, which these authors clearly do not grasp.

Writing such a manifesto without understanding the facts makes the reader wonder "why?" Have the authors such poor experiences with the medical profession as a whole (perhaps a child with an illness? Or their own horrific experience with their own plastic surgery while pursuing prefection?) Or do they simply wish to play with the big boys? If the later is true, my advice is to take some basic medical classes.

The topics chosen (estrogen, growth hormone, etc) are interesting, but the lack of knowlege makes this book one that I cannot reccommend and would strongly encourage others to stay away from.

A little knowlege can be a bad thing on this subject. Until the Rothmans get more they should put down their pens.
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