Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh - review by Wendy Moore

Wendy Moore

Decisions & Incisions

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 278pp £16.99
 

Henry Marsh’s unflinchingly honest and profoundly moving memoir is essentially a long apology to the patients and their relatives whose lives he has, in his own words, ‘wrecked’. Looking back as he nears retirement on a career spanning thirty years, Marsh is haunted by the patients who have died or been left with devastating disabilities as a result of his actions. When one woman whose husband died unexpectedly from a stroke after an operation to remove a tumour asks the surgeon to ‘Remember him in your prayers’, Marsh answers, ‘I remember all my patients who die after operations.’ He adds to himself, ‘I wish I didn’t.’

Brain surgery is rare, brain surgeons even rarer and the chances of Marsh even becoming a brain surgeon were rarer still. Privately educated, he entered Oxford to study PPE but left prematurely after a failed romance and worked for six months as a hospital porter. It was then that he

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