- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 9, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812992733
- ISBN-13: 978-0812992731
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 149 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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“An exciting, artful blend of family and medical history.”—The New York Times
“In prose both elegant and intimate, and often thrilling, Patient H.M. is an important book about the wages not of sin but of science. It is deeply reported and surprisingly emotional, at times poignant, at others shocking. . . . A scintillating book, infused with humanity.”—The Washington Post
“Spellbinding . . . The fact that Dittrich looks critically at the actual process of scientific investigation is just one of the things to admire about Patient H.M.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Astonishingly insightful . . . A fascinating story in its own right to anyone interested in the history of modern science’s attempts to understand the causes of mental illness along with the many botched attempts to treat it . . . [Patient H.M.] is indeed about memory, madness, and family secrets and, in that sense, about the paths that shape the core of the self, in each and every one of us.”—Psychology Today
“Beautifully told . . . a book that will rank with Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the realm of outstanding medical ethics narratives.”—Associated Press
“Dittrich’s account raises entirely new questions about the way in which the research on H.M. was conducted—and about the conclusions that have long been incorporated into our understanding of memory.”—New York Magazine
“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)
“At the heart of this breathtaking work . . . is [Luke] Dittrich’s story of his complicated grandfather, his mentally ill grandmother, and a long-held family secret, with Molaison stranded ‘where the past and the future were nothing but indistinct blurs.’”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“The machinations of scientists and researchers—their personality and ambition, power and hubris—are of equally vital (and cautionary) importance in Dittrich’s unusual and compelling mix of science and family history.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Patient H.M. tells one of the most fascinating and disturbing stories in the annals of medicine, weaving in ethics, philosophy, a personal saga, the history of neurosurgery, the mysteries of human memory, and an exploration of human ego. A monumental contribution to our understanding of medical research, and of ourselves, Patient H.M. is sweeping, meticulous, and seamless—with an ending that, like the best of scientific investigations, challenges everything that came before it.”—Sheri Fink, M.D., Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Five Days at Memorial
About the Author
Luke Dittrich is a National Magazine Award–winning journalist, and a contributing editor at Esquire. This is his first book.
Top customer reviews
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Scoville's biggest case, Dittrich learned, was a lobotomy on the epileptic Henry Moulaison. His drill went too far, and Moulaison, known in brain literature as Patient H.M., lost all his present-tense memory. He was studied by many people, especially by Suzanne Corkle, who coincidentally lived across the street from Dittrich's family when they were children.
Yes, Dittrich had a story to tell, but Corkle would not share her notes on Patient H.M. with him; she was writing her own book. Anger, anger, anger. It drives Dittrich's story. This book is a great read.
You can see almost firsthand the incredible arrogance of a doctor who blindly removes vital parts of the brains of fellow human beings and what they are left with. And while he is hoping to cure terrible problems, he almost seems more interested in finding out the function of parts of the brain and where memory is lodged.
It is a clever mystery, a medical tretise, a human story. It is also a terrible, frightening
story if you think of poor H.M.
All very interesting, however.
Of the many hundreds of books I've read over a great many years, this one happens to stand out as one of the 10 or so best I've ever read. This is partly because the book matches up with my interests and experiences, but most of the credit is due to the talent of the author to deliver the goods on a topic for which he is uniquely qualified to write about. His willingness to reveal and speak honestly about the behavior and decisions of a member of his own family and close friends of the family in how they handled the ethics of treating humans essentially as unwitting lab animals is extraordinary.
It seemed obvious to me that the author, Luke Dittrich, was emotionally and intellectually engaged in writing this book.
Of special note is Mr. Dittrich's commendable ability to distill relatively complex anatomical and medical topics into understandable layman's terms, while staying true to what those technical representations are actually describing. I myself had a pneumoencephalogram diagnostic test performed on me over 45 years ago to probe the possibility of a suspected brain tumor. Those were the pre-CAT scan and Pre-MRI scan days. The test was a gosh-awful, inhumane, abusive test. None of the people administering the test on me appeared to have a clue as to how it felt for me to undergo that test. I dearly wish that they had the opportunity to read the couple of detailed pages that Mr. Dittrich devotes to relating what that experience is like. Mr. Dittrich does a similarly riveting job of explaining a variety of other technical things and concepts throughout the book.
He lays out the facts for the reader and allows the reader to develop his/her own conclusions about what they would have done if faced with the same ethical dilemmas characterizing the patient, H.M., both in life and after that life became a scientific afterlife that - of course - has now taken on a life of its own. The entire story is full of intrigue, justifiable outrage, and leaves room for plenty of speculation about what you would have done in the same circumstances.
Get a hold of the book. Read it. But, most importantly, think about what you have read. Digest it. Discuss it. Delight in the experience.