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Publisher's Summary

With compassion and candor, leading neurosurgeon Henry Marsh reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets, and the moments of black humor that characterize a brain surgeon's life. If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft practiced by calm and detached surgeons, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again.
©2015 Henry Marsh (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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Critic Reviews

"Neurosurgery has met its Boswell in Henry Marsh. Painfully honest about the mistakes that can 'wreck' a brain, exquisitely attuned to the tense and transient bond between doctor and patient, and hilariously impatient of hospital management, Marsh draws us deep into medicine's most difficult art and lifts our spirits. It's a superb achievement." (Ian McEwan)
"His love for brain surgery and his patients shines through, but the specialty - shrouded in secrecy and mystique when he entered it - has now firmly had the rug pulled out from under it. We should thank Henry Marsh for that." ( The Times)
"When a book opens like this: 'I often have to cut into the brain and it is something I hate doing' - you can't let it go, you have to read on, don't you? Brain surgery, that's the most remote thing for me, I don't know anything about it, and as it is with everything I'm ignorant of, I trust completely the skills of those who practice it, and tend to forget the human element, which is failures, misunderstandings, mistakes, luck and bad luck, but also the non-professional, everyday life that they have. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh reveals all of this, in the midst of life-threatening situations, and that's one reason to read it; true honesty in an unexpected place. But there are plenty of others - for instance, the mechanical, material side of being, that we also are wire and strings that can be fixed, not unlike cars and washing machines, really." (Karl Ove Knausgaard, Financial Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Bonny on 06-03-15

Neurosurgical struggles between hope & reality

Do No Harm provides interesting, educational, terrifying, and honest insights into neurosurgery, the patients that undergo the surgery, Britain's National Health Service, and the author himself. Each chapter deals with a different condition - pineocytoma, meningioma, anaesthesia dolorosa, hubris - in which Mr. Marsh recounts his successes, failures, thoughts, and feelings.

His prose is beautiful when describing the brain and his view through the counterbalanced surgical microscope, which “leans out over the patient’s head like an inquisitive, thoughtful crane.” The internal cerebral veins are like “the great arches of a cathedral roof”. Marsh writes about his anxiety, how and how much he should convey to his patients, the unusual route of how he became a neurosurgeon, his frustrations, and all the things that make him human first, neurosurgeon second. When speaking with patients, he struggles to find the balance between “hope and reality,” “optimism and realism,” “detachment and compassion.” This book details those struggles in fine form, and Jim Barclay provides absolutely perfect narration.

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29 of 31 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Scott on 06-02-15


Would you recommend Do No Harm to your friends? Why or why not?

This audiobook features the reflections of Dr. Henry Marsh, a British Neurosurgeon with over thirty years of practice, primarily in brain surgery. His writing is straightforward and surprisingly honest – he’s not hesitant to admit mistakes in judgment, instances he has erred, and the unfavorable outcomes that haunt him (and the reader). Do No Harm is most gripping when it focuses on the surgeries and the patients – there is a surprising amount of detail and suspense in these parts. Unfortunately, these are interspersed with many less interesting bits – the inadequacies of the British health care system, hospital bureaucracies, and incompetent colleagues to name a few - where Marsh’s recollections come across as rants. This isn’t helped by the narration whose tone is more often than not equal parts frustration and irritation and which I found distracting. Do No Harm offers an interesting glimpse into the day to day world of a neurourgeon and probably should be required reading by any medical intern thinking of making this their career. For the layperson, however, I wish it had confined itself solely to the operating room.

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34 of 38 people found this review helpful

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