Deluded Review – Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
About the Book Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
- Written by Henry Marsh
- 288 pages
- Published January 1st 2014
- Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2014), Costa Book Award Nominee for Biography (2014), Wellcome Book Prize Nominee (2015), Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2014)
From Goodreads: 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?
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.
I stumbled upon this book by accident because Drew left it at my house. It was time for some nighttime reading, but my book was in the car… leaving me to try this book instead. I’m glad I did! Right away, I was compelled by the author’s charming voice and storytelling abilities. He mentions several times throughout the book that he is quite talkative, and this really shines through in his writing as his anecdotes are clear and well explained.
Each chapter discusses a different patient or series of patients with a different brain disorder. He transcends his career with the flip of a page, remembering past mistakes and victories. Though many stories don’t have happy endings, he does not hold back his emotions, letting us feel all the pain and poignant sorrow that a surgeon goes through when his patients don’t recover. Too often, we think of the surgeon as a cold and immovable figure, so it’s really refreshing to see a doctor that is both passionate and empathetic. He often talks about how doctors are seen as this all-knowing godlike creature with the power to magically heal… when at the end of the day, they are just normal people like everyone else.
He also plays a lot with the idea of the doctor/patient relationship, and how it’s so easy for a doctor to slip from his role as healer to the one needing healed. It was also to hear his thoughts on the idea of operating even when it might not make a difference. Is living just a few more months worth the torture of a rigorous brain surgery? How do you weigh the odds of causing catastrophic brain injury over removing a benign tumor? I found his struggles with discussing these issues with family members intriguing and revealing at the same time.
Also of interest was his complete and utter hatred for the rules and regulations of the British healthcare system. It was apparent throughout the entire book that he has a glaring dislike for all of the new procedural codes and rules, and I don’t blame him. Many of his stories focus around how these rules prevented him from providing patient care or treating his patients with respect. It does raise many questions about the state of healthcare and whether or not people actually matter to hospitals and governments. Overall, all I can say is that if I ever need a neurosurgeon, I hope I can find one as caring and dedicated as this guy.