Book Review


Title: Phantom Limb: Amputation, Embodiment, and Prosthetic Technology
Author: Cassandra S. Crawford
Publisher: New York University Press, 2014, 307 pages
Reviewed by: Don Cummings, CP (LP)

Phantom limb is generally associated with sensations felt in the absent or amputated limb. In Phantom Limb: Amputation, Embodiment, and Prosthetic Technology, author Cassandra Crawford delves much deeper into theories, studies, and interviews with researchers regarding the cortical reorganization that may occur with use of a prosthesis over time, how prosthetic wear can often reduce phantom pain, and the utility of phantom sensation to somehow extend into the device to give it more lifelike qualities.

Crawford reviews the phenomenon of phantom pain, phantom sensation, and the amazing ability of an amputee to incorporate a prosthesis into his or her body image, including the physiological and psychological self. The changes over the past several hundred years in societal and medical perception of amputation and phantom pain or sensation are described and analyzed in depth. Modern advances in prosthetic technique and technology, and how those are "embodied" by the person with an amputation, are discussed. Also included is an analysis of how society's perception of phantom limb and prosthetic outcomes has changed. Possible contributors toward successful use as well as rejection of prostheses are examined. This is a very scholarly text; the author has included more than 50 pages of notes, references, and an index.

Summary: Phantom Limb is an excellent reference for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and the progression in theory and research on the subject over time. It probably offers as many questions as answers, but definitely will reward readers with a deeper understanding of the progression of efforts to understand the mystery of phantom limb and how the person experiencing it can be so mightily impacted in a multitude of ways.

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