Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich


Rate: 3/5


Medium: Audiobook


Overview: My new job comes along with the added benefit of an hour plus commute, which should allow me to plow through a multitude of audiobooks. The first of these books that I’ve finished during my inaugural week at work was Dittrich’s Patient H.M, which is an interesting account of his investigation his Grandfather’s work as a neurosurgeon and his most famous patient. No random surgeon, William Beecher Scoville made name for himself as a pioneer of the lobotomy surgery. While experimenting with applying this surgical technique into epileptic patients Scoville removed significant portions of Henry Molaison’s medial temporal lobe causing him to be continually amnesic throughout the remainder of his life. Molaison’s symptoms were so unique that he became the perfect test subject regarding the secrets of memory storage. The first two thirds of this book were fascinating as Dettrich details the development of neurosurgery, medicine and our understanding of memory spanning back to the time of the Egyptians. Interspersed between the aforementioned facts, are Molaison and Scoville’s histories until their fates become intermingled on the surgery table. Alas, it is the final third of the book that seemed to drag along at an incredibly slow pace. It is at this point that Dittrich seemed to lose the nonbiased voice he’d maintained until this point, despite his Grandfather committing the original act against Molaison and had performed an additional lobotomy on his own wife who was suffering from schizophrenia. He revealed some uncomfortable and suspicious revelations centered around the researcher Dr. Suzanne Corkin, who had performed or orchestrated the majority of the work, with regard to a lack of payments to Molaison for the many, many studies he’d participated in and a rather shady appointment of a non relative as a  his conservator. However arguable the most concerning allegation was her  potentially destroying data and the threat to shred it all upon her death. The whole time he was laying out all of these concerning questions, I found myself increasingly aware of the personal nature his narrative seemed to be assuming. Upon Googling this topic post read, I wasn’t surprised to find that I wasn’t the only one that had sensed similar red flags. The controversy is apparently continuing, even though the main researcher called in question had passed away before the book was even published. The book held no mention that she’d passed or if she’d actually shredded all of the her documents. Overall, for a book that started off filled with exceptional details, the ending, while disturbing seemed to lack the impartial tones previously utilized.


 Buy Patient H.M. here!

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9 comments

  1. I read this last year and loved it, and I naively didn’t know anything about the controversy over his allegations against the researcher. I just remember being caught up in the sadness of it, like that they’d replace his video tapes but never paid him, something like that. I’ll have to read more about it. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve got a longish commute as well, so I know what you mean about audiobooks. Thankfully the local library and Archive.org have some good stuff. Although I also carpool a bit, so chatting happens often as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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