Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

do no harm

It’s a slightly older, non-fiction, book for review for me today and one I have read for my Deepings U3A Monday Reading Group: Do No Harm by Henry Marsh.

Do No Harm was published by Weidenfield and Nicholson, an imprint of Orion and is available for purchase through the publisher links.

Do No Harm

do no harm

What is it like to be a brain surgeon?

How does it feel to hold someone’s life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?

How do you live with the consequences when it all goes wrong?

Do No Harm offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its exquisite complexity. With astonishing candour and compassion, Henry Marsh reveals the exhilarating drama of surgery, the chaos and confusion of a busy modern hospital, and above all the need for hope when faced with life’s most agonising decisions.

My Review of Do No Harm

A factual memoir about the life of an eminent brain surgeon, Henry Marsh.

Do No Harm opens with a fairly graphic description of brain surgery and initially I had the feeling I was going to be too squeamish to read this memoir. However, Henry Marsh writes with such eloquence that I was drawn in within a couple of pages and found myself completely held in his thrall.

What works so well in this book is the balance of factual and medical detail, explanation of procedures, hospital administration and insight into the personality of the author. Henry Marsh does not spare himself or the reader from his triumphs and disasters, his generosity and his embarrassments, so that there is a true sense of the man behind the surgical mask. I must admit I found some of the passages referring to the bureaucracy and inadequate systems our doctors and nurses have to work within made my blood boil.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the people Henry Marsh worked on and with, and have to admire the way in which he dealt with them. I’m not at all certain I could have behaved with many of them as equitably as did the author. I got a vivid sense of the people and personalities and felt that I had encountered their experiences with them because the writing is so skilful. Indeed, it is quite poetic at times. Although Henry Marsh sees himself as an ordinary man I have to disagree. He is a fantastic surgeon, a magnificent writer and a thoroughly compassionate and wonderful, if flawed, human being. It is those flaws and human frailties that make reading Do No Harm so mesmerising.

I thought Do No Harm was written with honesty, humility, humour and, above all, a real feeling of humanity. It’s a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking read that I recommend most highly. I could not tear myself away from its pages.

About Henry Marsh

henry marsh

Henry Marsh read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before studying medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London, graduating in 1979. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1984 and was appointed Consultant Neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley’s/St.George’s in 1987, where he still works full time.

He has been the subject of two major documentary films: Your Life in their Hands (BBC 2003 ) which won the Royal Television Society Gold Medal and The English Surgeon (2009) which won an Emmy. He has lectured widely on the subject of hospital architecture and design, keeps bees and makes furniture in his spare time. He was made a CBE by HM the Queen in 2010. He is married to the best-selling anthropologist and writer Kate Fox.

You can find out more by visiting Henry Marsh’s website.

14 thoughts on “Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

  1. Oh, Linda, what an accomplished and talented man is Henry Marsh!
    Surgeons, people in the OR, are truly angels! The amount of compassion, energy and time that goes into an operation – and is often overlooked it always amazes me. Add to this their 24×7 lifestyle they choose and honor.
    Definitely a must read for me!
    Thank you for a heart felt review.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This sounds very readable, if a little uncomfortable insofar as being allowed a peek inside the brain of a brain surgeon, if you’ll forrgive the not-quite-pun!
    When we spend our days worrying about what to cook for dinner, or which chapter of our book needs are attention next, these guys are wiring more than a BT box at the end of the road. Incredible and probably entertaining by the sounds of your review of Henry’s writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I found this a fascinating book. I’m not sure I’d use humility in a description of Henry Marsh, though. I thought he came across as quite arrogant at times – but probably you have to be to achieve what he did.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thoughts36 says:

    Ooh I love all things medical. Sounds really good. Especially as he’s a brain surgeon. The amount of information that we all have stored in our brain and the way we can pick out something obscure that has been in there for years, at will, never fails to amaze me. I love the series Hospital on BBC2 as well so I might take a look at this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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