Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh has written a philosophical, incisive and exasperated book about brain surgery called Do No Harm.
It’s a hugely entertaining read as Marsh takes us through the practical and emotional process of operating, or not operating, on patients with neurological disorders.
He does a lot of moaning – about hospital management, computerisation, administration – sometimes quite enjoyably it must be said, but in some ways he does reflect the stereotype of the bellowing “I’ve got lives to save!” surgeon that stalks hospital corridors.
Most strikingly though, Marsh is clearly aware of his faults and he is a tough critic of himself and his decisions, often to the point of guilt. But it is through the many battles won and lost where you can see the wisdom shine through.
It is a brilliant insight, more than anything, into the decision-making involved in neurosurgery and the emotional impact these professional choices have on patients and professionals alike.
It’s interesting to compare in tone to Katrina Firlik’s neurosurgical biography Another Day in the Frontal Lobe which is equally candid about the fog of surgery but relentlessly optimistic in conclusion.
In contrast, Marsh is a man trying his best in difficult circumstances. Some of those circumstances just happen to be several centimetres deep in the brain.
The book is also wonderfully written by the way. One not to miss.
Link to details of book Do No Harm.