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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SYMPATHETIC PORTRAIT OF A COMPLEX MAN AND A DIFFICULT SUBJECT, 17 Jun 2008
By 
Peter Hurst "peter hurst" (wigan, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness (Paperback)
'The Lobotomist - a maverick medical genius and his tragic quest to rid the world of mental illness' is a readable biography of Walter Freeman the man who more than most sought to popularise the use of 'psychosurgery,' commonly known as 'lobotomy,' in America in the mid twentieth century. The author embeds the story in the world in which Freeman lived and actually makes sense of what appears to contempory society to be at best medical hubris, at worst iatrogenic atrocities morally equivalent to the work of Josef Mengele in Nazi Germany.

It is easy to forget that as recently as the 1930s no real effective medical treatment for the major mental disorders existed and the best that could be hoped for was to warehouse the mentally ill and hope for spontaneous remission. It is in this context that the author seeks to explicate the emergence of psychosurgery as an attempt to counteract the prevailing sense of therapeutic hopelesness which cast a pall over the many institutions existing at that juncture.

It is clear that without an adequate understanding of the conditions that existed in Psychiatric practice at the time it is impossible to understand why Freeman would seek to promote what seems to be, to the modern mind-set, such an invasive and potentially dangerous procedure. The author conveys well the sense of therapeutic hopelessness that existed at the time and Freeman's desire to re-establish Psychiatric treatment as primarily Medical in it's ambit, as opposed to Psychoanalytic, and thereby bridge the gap between Neurology and Psychiatry.

In this sense, Freeman is seen to be ahead of his time, a harbinger for the modern Psychiatric preoccupation with the biological origins of mental illness. Walter Freeman is shown as standing at a crossroads in the history of psychiatry: one foot placed in the future with his therapeutic optimism and emphasis on the 'brain' (as opposed to the 'mind') as the focus for treatment but also with one foot placed firmly in the past with his casual disregard for the niceties of what would come to be known as 'evidence-based medicine.'

In summary: an interesting, readable and largely sympathetic biography of a man and an era in the history of Psychiatry that presaged the modern era with it's modern treatments.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lobotomist, 5 Feb 2009
By 
Steve Bevers - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness (Paperback)
Really well put together book. Walter Freeman is either brilliant or mad himself - the result is much the same! This book tells the full story of his life and his quest to rid the world of mental illness. A must read for those interested in the history of mental illness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read!, 22 Dec 2011
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This review is from: The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness (Paperback)
This is a great biography on the 'maverick genius' that was Walter Freeman. Written objectively, the reader is left to make their own mind up as to whether the seemingly brutal operation that Dr Freeman was an exponent of was effective in any way.
An intriguing character who believed he was doing his best for the medical world. Genius or madman? You decide...
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