Book Reviews / The Latest

Medicine in words: a review of “Do No Harm” by Henry Marsh


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Do No Harm is a medical memoir. Henry Marsh picks tales from his career as a neurosurgeon and shares his failures, successes, frustrations, and hopes. I think that this book is extremely important for our society because it details the frustrations and complications of working in hospitals and brings a human aspect to medicine in general. Marsh himself says that many people view surgeons and doctors as heroes with super human abilities. Doctors, surgeons, and nurses can be heroes, however, they are also human. And to be human means to be flawed, subjective, and in need of regular sleep.

People not associated with the medical world only go to doctors and hospitals when they are ill or someone they know is ill. The medical world is never associated with nice things. Disease, illness, death, and dying are all things people try to push aside from their everyday lives. Even doctors do this, just ask Marsh. On the other side of this illness there are the people who dedicate their lives to serving the sick. People go into medicine for many different reasons. I think the general public would like to believe that most people train in medicine to help people. Whilst that is an aspect of the motivation, there is another aspect which is very human: the excitement and the challenges of the (medical) jobs. It may seem morbid or even off-putting to think that people go into medical practices for the thrill of it, but it is an important aspect of why people do what they do. It is the thing that makes all professions and pursuits the same. I write and work with words because I love them. There is an excitement linked with what I do. Otherwise, why would I keep doing it? The same can be said for people working in medicine. There is a thrill in solving the complex puzzles of the human body. The highs are extreme and the lows of it can take you to the very edges of hell.

There has been such a disconnect between the sciences and the rest of the world for many different reasons. This book is perfect at bridging the gap between the two and showing that more often than not, these so called ‘differences’ are things we just made up in our heads so long ago that they became truth.

I had so much fun reading this book. As someone who was touched by cancer, and in particular a brain tumor, through my Father’s cancer journey, this book has been a breath of fresh air. There is an honesty that I can appreciate in this book. Marsh also speaks of the frustrations of public health and the bureaucracy that influences hospitals and medical practices around the world.

Don’t think this book is just for people in medicine. This book is for everyone and everyone should read it.

Are you a fan of medical memoirs? Would you ever read such a book? As always remember to share the reading love.

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