Staff Review: Do no harm : stories of life, death, and brain surgery

From Andrea Kalinowski

Author:  Henry Marsh

Title:  Do no harm : stories of life, death, and brain surgery

Do no harm: stories of life, death, and brain surgery by Henry Marsh was an engrossing read. One point which I found especially intriguing is that the author admits his fallibility. Henry Marsh is a British neurosurgeon. He has worked in private practice and in the NHS (National Health Service). In addition, Henry has been on both sides of the operating table at various times in his life. His own son, a mere infant at the time of the diagnosis, needed a tumor removed and Henry himself underwent surgery for retinal detachment. Henry also broke his leg. Being on both sides of the operating table has given him an understanding of the levels of patience some of his patients require as they wait for and then undergo various examinations and surgeries. Dr. Marsh admits that he has performed surgeries against his better judgment. These surgeries were mainly an appeasement to the patient and/or the patient’s families who had difficulty accepting that nothing more could be done for their loved one(s). In reading Dr. Marsh’s memoir, I got the impression that he does not feel that life should be torturous, that sometimes the best thing to do is to let go. To my way of thinking, we treat, in general, our pets with more compassion than we treat our fellow human beings. We are allowed to euthanize our pets but our fellow human beings are sometimes subjected to heroic medical efforts without consideration being given to the quality and not quantity of life. What does it matter if a person gains six months of life if those six months are spent in a vegetative state? I have always found medicine fascinating and this book furthered my knowledge base. It strengthened my enthrallment though I recognize I am not physically capable of pursuing this field, much to my dismay.

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