Book Review: Do No Harm

Thursday 26 March 2015 by

Do No Harm, Book, Henry Marsh, OrionDo No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh

Published by Orion

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.


I have belonged to my book group for over 15 years and we have read a book a month so that makes an awful lot of books and lots of discussions! We try to mix in lots of different genres and throw in non fiction and biographies alongside classics, treasured favourites from our youth and what’s on the current book lists.

This month we read Do No Harm by Henry Marsh who is a neurosurgeon who has been operating on brains for over 20 years. In this book the author charts his experience of dealing with a number of different types of brain tumours – and boy are there lots of types of tumours – and what they are like from the surgeon’s perspective. What struck me about what a surgeon deals with is that the theatre is aptly named and that the performance cannot belie what he is feeling. The brain on one hand is a mass of tissue and blood vessels and on the other is what people are and reconciling the two sometimes puzzles the surgeons. Henry feels the responsibility of telling the truth to his patients and then swaggers into operations – would I want to be treated by him?

This was a fascinating insight into a unique world, told by one of the insiders (who has quite a bit to say about the NHS), quite technical in places but with an overlying humanity and humility – it gripped me more than I expected and I would recommend it to you.

Cathy is a wife, mother and portfolio career woman; she loves reading and would happily spend every hour of every day with her nose buried in a good book. A bilingual and word-whizz, she can also complete The Times Su Doku in 10 minutes flat… if it’s easy.

You can follow her on Twitter @JustNiceCathy

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