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

Author(s): Henry Marsh

Biography / Memoir

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 of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong? DO NO HARM is an unforgettable insight into the career of one of the country's leading neurosurgeons, and into the countless human dramas that take place in a busy modern hospital. Above all, it is a lesson in the need for hope when faced with life's most difficult decisions.

This work draws together a career’s worth of anecdotes developed in a raw, honest and devastating form. Marsh has created a masterpiece that has rightfully been awarded international acclaim, namely receiving the Costa Biography Award, being shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and winning the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Award. Inside the labyrinthine corridors of the central nervous system, Marsh operates on the millimeter scale. He speaks frankly of his experiences with scalpel and forceps poised as he tunnels through the brains of his patients avoiding, by microns, the fatal slip to permanent hemiparesis one second and catastrophic aneurysm the next. As Marsh patrols his ward each day to find the lives he has saved and the unspeakable damage he has accidentally wrought, he pours forth his worries, doubts, reflections and insights to show the reader the life beyond the locked theatre doors. Do No Harm is an education for all, a gripping read and an original reflection on life as it is. - Dougal

Product Information

An astonishingly candid insight into the life and work of a modern neurosurgeon - its triumphs and disasters. A SUNDAY TIMES bestseller.

Winner of PEN/Ackerley Prize 2015. Shortlisted for Costa Biography Award 2014.

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 An enthralling read ... a testimony of wonder ... Marsh's style is admirably clear, concise and precise ... There is no forcing of a narrative arc or a happy ending, just the quotidian frustrations, sorrows, regrets and successes of neurosurgical life -- Gavin Francis GUARDIAN An elegant series of meditations at the closing of a long career. Many of the stories are moving enough to raise tears, but at the heart this is a book about wisdom and experience -- Nicholas Blincoe DAILY TELEGRAPH [Do No Harm] simply tells the stories, with great tenderness, insight and self-doubt ... Why haven't more surgeons written books, especially of this prosaic beauty? Well, thank God for Henry Marsh ... What a bloody, splendid book: commas optional -- Euan Ferguson OBSERVER Incredibly absorbing ... an astonishingly candid insight -- Bill Bryson Riveting ... extraordinarily intimate, compassionate and sometimes frightening ... [Marsh] writes with uncommon power and frankness NEW YORK TIMES Offers an astonishing glimpse into this stressful career. This is a wonderful book, passionate and frank. If Marsh is even a tenth as good a neurosurgeon as he is a writer, I'd let him open my skull any time -- Leyla Sanai INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY Henry Marsh ... sets a new standard for telling it like it is ... 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 -- Phil Hammond 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? ... I trust completely the skills of those who practise [brain surgery], and tend to forget the human element, which is failures, misunderstandings, mistakes, luck and bad luck ... Do No Harm 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 -- Karl Ove Knausgard FINANCIAL TIMES As gripping and engrossing as the best medical drama, only with the added piquancy of being entirely true, this compelling account of what it's really like to be a brain surgeon will have you on the edge of your sunlounger -- Sandra Parsons DAILY MAIL A mesmerising, at times painful journey through a neurosurgeon's extraordinary career. As delicate as he can be brutal, Marsh's account of himself is always honest and moving. Human frailty at its strongest -- Jessie Burton, author of THE MINIATURIST A strikingly honest and humane account of what it means to hold the power of life and death in your hands ... elegant, edifying and necessary -- Erica Wagner NEW STATESMAN 'Books of the Year' Marsh has written a book about a love affair, and one cannot help feeling similarly smitten ... 'Elegant, delicate, dangerous and full of profound meaning'. All four of those epithets might describe this book -- Ed Caesar THE SUNDAY TIMES A fascinating look inside the head of a man whose job it is to fiddle around in ours. He acknowledges that surgeons are arrogant, that they play God, but that they are also afflicted by despair, sorrow and doubt. He is scathing on NHS bureaucracy and his picture of doctors doing their best but basically flailing in the dark made me respect the profession more -- Nick Curtis EVENING STANDARD

Henry Marsh read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before studying medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1984 and was appointed Consultant Neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley's/St George's Hospital in London in 1987, where he still works full time. He has been the subject of two major documentary films, YOUR LIFE IN THEIR HANDS, which won the ROYAL TELEVISION SOCIETY GOLD MEDAL, and THE ENGLISH SURGEON, featuring his work in the Ukraine, which won an EMMY. He was made a CBE in 2010. He is married to the anthropologist and writer Kate Fox. Visit his website at

General Fields

  • : 9781780225920
  • : Orion Publishing Co
  • : Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • : June 2014
  • : 198mm X 129mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : October 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 320
  • : Henry Marsh
  • : Paperback
  • : 517
  • : English
  • : 617.481092