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Last Resort


  • 47 b/w illus. 5 tables
  • Page extent: 576 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.94 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 616.89/1
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: RD594 .P655 1998
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Psychosurgery--United States--History
    • Psychosurgery--history--United States

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521353717 | ISBN-10: 0521353718)

DOI: 10.2277/0521353718

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published March 1998

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

 (Stock level updated: 13:20 GMT, 30 November 2015)


During the 1940s and 1950s, tens of thousands of Americans underwent some form of psychosurgery; that is, their brains were operated upon for the putative purpose of treating mental illness. From today's perspective, such medical practices appear foolhardy at best, perhaps even barbaric; most commentators thus have seen in the story of lobotomy an important warning about the kinds of hazards that society will face whenever incompetent or malicious physicians are allowed to overstep the boundaries of valid medical science. Last Resort, first published in 1998, challenges the previously accepted psychosurgery story and raises new questions about what we should consider its important lessons.


Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Psychiatry's renaissance; 2. Sufficient promise; 3. Certain benefit; 4. Active treatment; 5. Human salvage; 6. Localized decisions; 7. The politics of precision; 8. Medicine controlled; Epilogue and conclusion; Appendix.


' … impressive work … Regrettably, Pressman died shortly after finishing this work. Had he lived, he would undoubtedly have made further important contributions to medical history'. Hugh Freeman, Nature

'This history of lobotomy by Jack Pressman has been eagerly awaited … The explanatory framework he offers is rich and rewarding … Last Resort has impressive strengths. It is impeccably researched, and Pressman has an ear for the telling quotation.' Roy Porter, The Times Higher Education Supplement

'It is impeccably researched, and Pressman has an ear for the telling quotation: and it transcends One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest caricatures to offer a balanced counter to the anti-psychiatry onslaught, seeking to understand the psycho-surgeon without providing an apologia for them.' Roy Porter, The Times Higher Education Supplement

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