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

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

Henry Marsh. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-06581-0

In this memoir of a long career, English neurosurgeon Marsh reveals both a “weary and knowing skepticism” and a striking determination to help the desperately ill despite the uncertainties. “The operating is the easy part, you know,” he writes of one neurosurgeon’s advice to him; “the difficulties are all to do with the decision-making.” Marsh’s remarkable, unblinking honesty shines through in each of the starkly different cases he describes, including a little boy with a progressive cancer whose family came to believe he could “go on being treated forever”; the death “without regret” of his own mother from metastasized breast cancer; and the devastating outcome of a difficult operation on an 11-year-old Ukrainian girl with a large but benign brain tumor that was slowly killing her. Surprisingly humble and introspective, Marsh can be hard on himself: “It’s not the successes I remember, or so I like to think, but the failures.” The stubborn bureaucracy of Britain’s healthcare system merits its own harsh meditation, though Marsh tempers his deep distrust of the system with compassion. This thoughtful doctor provides a highly personal and fascinating look inside the elite world of neurosurgery, appraising both its amazing successes as well as its sobering failures. [em]Agent: Julian Alexander, Lucas Alexander Whitley Ltd. (U.K.). (June) [/em]