The Weekend Read – Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

UnknownThis is a wonderful book.

Henry Marsh tells stories, his own, his patients’, his profession’s and the creaking political football of the system. I regret that I waited until the paperback was available before I read it.

He writes with wonderful candour about the decisions that are needed when dealing with surgery in the most inaccesible and dangerous area of the body. Dr Marsh takes the reader through the joys of success but more importantly does not flinch from the consequences of failure.

Do No Harm, the phrase attributed to Hippokrates, is a great read on many levels. As the biography of a surgeon it is an uncompromising memoir. It is a page turner in the manner of a thriller – you feel guilty but want to know the outcomes of the operations that his patients endure. His descriptions of the diseases and their consequences that affect the brain are as good as anything I read as an undergraduate and certailnly make more sense. Finally his talents as a writer of prose make this a superior read to most novels.

I spent 35 years as a clinician, 25 of them in full time practice. My experiences and the effects that I have had on my patients’ lives are not in the same universe as the author’s, yet I can, and did, share some of his doubts, worries fears about what he was doing, the risks involved and the possible long term consequences of action. Most of medicine deals with quality of life, thank goodness, else how would most cope? What it must be like to wake up on Monday morning knowing that you could save or end a life that day very few can imagine.

It’s available from Amazon here.

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