THE LIFE GIVERS by David Hendin


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It is ironic that the techniques developed by the six doctors Hendin has singled out for medical laurels have been supplanted or have given rise to new controversies. Salk's killed polio vaccine was not used in America once Sabin developed an attenuated live vaccine. Lillehei's pacemaker and heart-lung machines merit high marks, but heart transplants have been dismal failures. Lellehei himself returned to Minnesota in disgrace over personal and tax scandals. L-dopa is now the preferred treatment for Parkinsonism; and the field of psychosurgery, in spite of Irving Cooper's tissue-freezing successes, is highly controversial. So too is the use of the tranquilizers and antidepressants, which are Nathan Kline's claim to fame. Finally, the Pill, presented here as John Rock's contribution, now comes with caveats, most recently for women over 40. The one exception to the rule is Howard Rusk, the pioneer of rehabilitation medicine, which is now whole-heartedly accepted as effective therapy for the disabled. So Hendin's brief bios leave a sour aftertaste. His heroes went against the grain and, except for the most indomitable, they suffered. Had Hendin concentrated on their interaction with the medical community, his book would have been more interesting. Instead he presents a Boy Scout merit badge version, full of Courage, Virtue, Hard Work, and clichÉs.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1976
Publisher: Morrow