The Pursuit of Perfection

The Pursuit of Perfection

The Promise and Perils of Medical Enchancement

By Sheila M. Rothman; David J. Rothman

Vintage Books, Paperback, 9780679758358, 320pp.

Publication Date: November 9, 2004


What does it mean to live in a time when medical science can not only cure the human body but also reshape it? How should we as individuals and as a society respond to new drugs and genetic technologies? Sheila and David Rothman address these troubling questions with a singular blend of history and analysis, taking us behind the scenes to explain how scientific research, medical practice, drug company policies, and a quest for peak performance combine to exaggerate potential benefits and minimize risks. The Rothmans bring an authoritative clarity to a subject often obscured by rumor, commerce and inadequate reporting, revealing just what happens when physicians view patients’ unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their bodies–short stature, thunder thighs, aging–as though they were diseases to be treated.

About the Author
Sheila M. Rothman is professor of public health in the Division of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. Her books include "Woman's Proper Place: A History of Changing Ideals and Practices, 1870 to the Present", and "Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Experience of Illness in American History".

David J. Rothman is Bernard Schoenberg Professor of Social Medicine, professor of history, and director of the Center for the Study of Science and Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. He is the author of numerous works, including The Willowbrook Wars, The Discovery of the Asylum, and The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enhancement.

Praise For The Pursuit of Perfection

“The authors shrewdly look backward at the history of medical innovation over the past century. . . Their prescription for society is wise” --The New York Times

“Is being short a medical problem that warrants treatment? What about the diminished strength that accompanies lower testosterone levels in men as they age? . . . These are among the provocative questions that . . . a pair of eminent medical historians from Columbia University thoughtfully explore in their new book.” --The Washington Post

“A thoroughly documented and readable book. ‘What science creates medicine rapidly dispenses,’ [the Rothmans] warn, and this uncritical acceptance by both physician and consumer is precisely the problem.” --Sherwin Nuland, The New York Review of Books

“An important contribution to the debate about medical enhancement” —The New England Journal of Medicine