A New York Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for both the Guardian First Book Prize and the Costa Book Award
Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
A Finalist for the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize
A Finalist for the Wellcome Book Prize
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Book of the Year
What is it like to be a brain surgeon? How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut into the stuff that creates thought, feeling, and reason? How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially lifesaving operation when it all goes wrong?
In neurosurgery, more than in any other branch of medicine, the doctor's oath to "do no harm" holds a bitter irony. Operations on the brain carry grave risks. Every day, leading neurosurgeon Henry Marsh must make agonizing decisions, often in the face of great urgency and uncertainty.
If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practiced by calm and detached doctors, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candor, Marsh reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets, and the moments of black humor that characterize a brain surgeon's life.
Do No Harm provides unforgettable insight into the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern hospital. Above all, it is a lesson in the need for hope when faced with life's most difficult decisions.
In this memoir of a long career, English neurosurgeon Marsh reveals both a "weary and knowing skepticism" and a striking determination to help the desperately ill despite the uncertainties. "The operating is the easy part, you know," he writes of one neurosurgeon's advice to him; "the difficulties are all to do with the decision-making." Marsh's remarkable, unblinking honesty shines through in each of the starkly different cases he describes, including a little boy with a progressive cancer whose family came to believe he could "go on being treated forever"; the death "without regret" of his own mother from metastasized breast cancer; and the devastating outcome of a difficult operation on an 11-year-old Ukrainian girl with a large but benign brain tumor that was slowly killing her. Surprisingly humble and introspective, Marsh can be hard on himself: "It's not the successes I remember, or so I like to think, but the failures." The stubborn bureaucracy of Britain's healthcare system merits its own harsh meditation, though Marsh tempers his deep distrust of the system with compassion. This thoughtful doctor provides a highly personal and fascinating look inside the elite world of neurosurgery, appraising both its amazing successes as well as its sobering failures.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Makes you think twice about single payer.
A compelling and highly insightful look into the mind of a top brain surgeon. Well structured text and very well written. Bravo again!
Do no harm
Loved the book. His honestly and sincerity come through. As a doctor myself I share his frustration and the joy of treating patients. Bravo!!!