Do No Harm By Henry Marsh

"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."

do no harm henry marsh quote

English neurosurgeon Henry Marsh does write beautifully about brain surgery. There certainly is great compassion and candour, and he’s fascinating on the topic of the human brain—how it works and what can go wrong with it. There are engaging narratives here, and Marsh has a way of dropping a story and picking it up again that kept me eagerly waiting to find out what would happen to each of the patients he depicts

Do No Harm is in part medical memoir and part impassioned rant against England’s National Health Service. Again and again, Marsh provides examples, sometimes hilarious, sometimes depressing, of the way technology and a dysfunctional corporate culture impedes his ability to help patients.

Toward the end of the book, we meet a man and his parents who come to Marsh’s office for a diagnosis of the man’s brain tumour. They are terrified and ready to hear the worst as they sit and wait for his verdict. But Marsh is unable to access the brain scans. There’s been a mix up in the hospital system's network, so he leaves the scared family in his office, and walks over to the imaging department, which is far away, but they’re not answering the no harm henry marsh book front cover“Where is Caroline?” I asked as I arrived at the x-ray reception desk, a little out of breath.

“Well, she’s about somewhere,” came the reply.
So I headed off round the department and eventually I found her and explained the problem.
“Have you tried your password?”
“Yes, I bloody well have!”
“Well, try Mr. Johnsons. That usually works. Fuckoff45. He hates computers.”
“Why 45?”
“It’s the 45th month since we signed on to that hospital system and one has to change the password every month,” Caroline replied.
So I ran down the corridor and down the stairs and past the waiting patients back to the consultation room.”

Fuckoff45 doesn’t work and neither does any other permeation Marsh tries. He runs back to the imaging department and convinces Caroline to accompany him back to the consultation room. FuckOff47 finally does the job. By then, the patients are almost vibrating with anxiety, his clinic is running 45 minutes late, and it’s not even 10:00 yet.

And on it goes.  


Our next book is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles