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The Impact of Illness on World Leaders

The Impact of Illness on World Leaders

Bert E. Park, M.D.

396 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 1986 | ISBN 9780812280050 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512805406 | Buy from Combined Academic Publishers £64.00
An Anniversary Collection volume

"[Park analyzes] the impact of severe illness on world leaders, taking as case studies individuals like Hitler, Hindenburg, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. Park does a very creditable job of demonstrating that famous men have made very important decisions while mentally impaired, and the posthumous medical diagnoses are fascinating. . . . It is a soundly researched, well-crafted example of the still fledgling field of biohistory."—Library Journal

"Park's study does help the reader develop a stronger appreciation of the importance of the health of national leaders in the actions they take. In his final chapter, Park poses thoughtful and troubling questions concerning the adequacy of our nation's (and others') abilities to diagnose and react to the problem of neurologically deteriorating statesmen. . . . The Impact of Illness on World Leaders, then, is an intriguing and provocative study of twentieth-century leaders and a prescription for the present."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Many of the specific claims and inferences Park makes in constructing his diagnoses are interesting and noteworthy of themselves. By his single-minded focus on physiological and neurological conditions, Park effectively challenges some long-standing stereotypes: Wilson the moralistic idealist, Roosevelt the master pragmatist, Hitler the evil genius. . . . By reminding us that world leaders . . . have bodies as well as minds, Park questions the wisdom of our reliance on one figure to shape history—either in theory or in practice."—Social Issues and Health Review

In The Impact of Illness on World Leaders, Bert E. Park explores the relationship between leadership and neurologic illness. Basing his study on a rigorous examination of primary and secondary source material from medicine, history, and political science, Park diagnoses illnesses which affected the thinking and actions of Anthony Eden and Adolf Hitler, among others. He discusses the historical situations in which these political leaders functioned and the effects their illnesses might have had on the decisions they made.

Park argues that the impact of aging and disease on leadership abilities is an important, potentially devastating problem which has been ignored by the people in a position to deal with it. Physicians who attend men in power, supported by government officials and politicians, often disguise their patients' infirmities and keep them in office long after they are able to function effectively.

In those few instances when the problem has been addressed, it has often been done by journalists or other persons not qualified to make a medical judgment about a leader's health, and they have relayed erroneous information (e.g., the myth of Hitler's syphilis). Part of the goal of The Impact of Illness on World Leaders is to correct such popular misconceptions. Park concludes his study of leadership and illness with suggestions for monitoring the health of leaders and deposing them if their health compromises their ability to lead.

Bert E. Park, M.D., is a practicing neurosurgeon.

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