Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets - Luke Dittrich

Staff Pick

When Dittrich’s grandfather, the pioneering psychosurgeon William Beecher Scoville, performed the lobotomy that failed to cure Henry Molaison’s epilepsy and left him a severe amnesiac, he created one of the best research subjects medical science has ever had. Studied for the rest of his life and after, Henry’s broken brain illuminated the workings of memory, cognition and much else. The knowledge came at a steep ethical cost; not only was Henry’s physical and emotional well-being overlooked in the greater interests of science, but neither Molaison nor his family were ever compensated for the hundreds of studies Henry participated in—indeed, studies that he made possible. Most patients who underwent lobotomies, however, were women, and when the procedure made them “docile,” it was viewed as a success. Scoville “cured” his own mentally ill wife this way. Dittrich’s compassionate account of Henry’s travails and those of other patients/victims/sacrifices—“material” in the reports—highlights the ultimately unreliable results gained by experimentation that sought to understand the human mind, yet did so by excluding humanity from its methodology. This is a heartbreaking, powerful, gruesome, and riveting book.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets By Luke Dittrich Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812992731
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Random House - August 9th, 2016