PSYCHOSURGERY: Damaging the Brain to Save the Mind by Joanne Ellison Rodgers

PSYCHOSURGERY: Damaging the Brain to Save the Mind

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Forget those ice-picking, mind-deadening lobotomies of yesteryear; society needs to keep an open mind about modern psychosurgery, argues Rodgers (Raising Sons, 1984), Director of Public Affairs for Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Rodgers's detailed account of clinical practice, case histories, and quotes from physicians makes for a greater acceptance of modern psychosurgery--which, she says, can be performed with pinpoint accuracy and enjoys seemingly limitless potential to explore and thus to treat a variety of afflictions including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and a host of other severe behavioral disturbances. The author does a good job of describing psychosurgical operations, some quite grisly (one trans-orbital lobotomy, for example, was so horrid that it reportedly made a 74-year-old observing surgeon faint). But the organization of Rodgers's book could cause a headache: topics don't track well; she takes too long to explain exactly what psychosurgery is and how much of it goes on; and she gives the opposition to psychosurgery only short shrift. The suspicion lurks that the author, not exactly an impartial observer, is writing p.r. here, particularly for a group of Johns Hopkins researchers whose views she duly records, along with their stated goal of getting a National Insitutes of Health grant to fund a symposium on the benefits of psychosurgery--which is now to be referred to as the more socially acceptable ""NRI,"" for ""neurological and related interventions."" An interesting introduction to a brave new world already upon us (one in which, Rodgers explains, surgeons may remove as much as half a brain to treat certain forms of epilepsy). Interesting, too, the discussion of psychosurgery as social-control--but a more balanced presentation would have served the subject better.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins