Jane O’Grady

Grey Areas

Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 271pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Do No Harm, the painful reminiscences of the neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, was an unlikely bestseller in 2014. Admissions, written since he retired, offers more in the same vein. As the punning title suggests, the book is not only about the patients admitted to Atkinson Morley Hospital and St George’s Hospital (where Marsh worked for almost thirty years), and to hospitals in Ukraine and Nepal (where Marsh worked after retiring in the UK), but also a series of confessions. Rather than wanting to parade his professional success, including his pioneering of craniotomy (a specialised technique that involves operating on a patient’s exposed brain while they are awake), Marsh seems eager to come clean on his bad decisions, medical mistakes, failures of nerve, temper and luck, inadequacy as a son, cruelty to a childhood pet, and the patients who have died under his knife.

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