Thursday, September 3, 2015

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, by Henry Marsh. Thomas Dunne Books, 2014

“Do no harm” is paraphrased in the Hippocratic Oath that medical students are all exposed to first thing. It’s the common principal in all medicine, but is especially stressed in neurosurgery, where the possibility for harm is so high. Henry Marsh has been a top neurosurgeon in Great Britain for many years and shares his stories of the trade here.

Each chapter is named for and explores the treatment of a different neurological problem; meningioma, pituitary adenoma, infarct. Each chapter features a different patient; we see how the patient came to Marsh, how the operation went, and sometimes we see how they fared. Not always; sometimes they are whisked way back to the hospital that referred them, rather them leaving them under the care of the surgeon. So there are times that the author had no idea how they ultimately turned out.

The descriptions of the problems and the way they are treated fascinated me, but beware if you are squeamish- the author describes things pretty vividly. But his book is not just about operations; it’s also about his own life, the about the NHS system in England. The system limits not just patient care but the hours doctors can work, which can make arranging long operations difficult. New doctors don’t have time enough to learn all they should. Marsh describes taking this out on nurses, anesthesiologists, clerks, and more- while an empathic, caring, man with patients, he seems to have been an ass to those he worked with at times- and admits it.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was like reading a series of exciting stories, watching Marsh’s expertise and character grow. And I love a good medical description. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything, not just this book- Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way influenced my review. 

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