Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Title: Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
Author: Henry Marsh
Enjoyment Rating; ****
Source: Hardback Copy
Content Alert: Possibly some swearing

Henry Marsh is an eminent London brain surgeon who writes about his experiences in Do No Harm. Marsh delves into individual cases, devoting a chapter to each, and talks about what he's learned, both in the operating theater and in life, from each one.

If Derek Shepherd is your idea of a brain surgeon, get ready for those assumptions to be tested by Henry Marsh. While I do think someone has to have a certain amount of self-confidence in order to cut into someone's head and take out pieces of their brain (especially when that person is alive), and Marsh does occasionally come off as self-important, he tends to focus a lot more on his failures here-- the cases that went wrong, the people that he tried to fix but couldn't, the cases he shouldn't have taken. Do No Harm feels a lot like a catalogue of regrets, and I think it takes a certain amount of self-awareness and humility to be able to write about your failures. This book was illuminating in illustrating some of the downfalls of the NHS in Great Britain, and the behind-the-scenes look at surgical protocols. It was also very humanizing to see Marsh talk about his relationships with patients and their families, especially when things did not go as planned.

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