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

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A New York Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for both the Guardian First Book Prize and the Costa Book Award
Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
A Finalist for the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize
A Finalist for the Wellcome Book Prize
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Notable Book of the Year

What is it like to be a brain surgeon? How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut into the stuff that creates thought, feeling, and reason? How do you live with the consequences of performing a potentially lifesaving operation when it all goes wrong?

In neurosurgery, more than in any other branch of medicine, the doctor's oath to "do no harm" holds a bitter irony. Operations on the brain carry grave risks. Every day, leading neurosurgeon Henry Marsh must make agonizing decisions, often in the face of great urgency and uncertainty.

If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practiced by calm and detached doctors, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candor, Marsh reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets, and the moments of black humor that characterize a brain surgeon's life.

Do No Harm provides unforgettable insight 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.

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The 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist, International Bestseller, and a Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2017!

“Marsh has retired, which means he’s taking a thorough inventory of his life. His reflections and recollections make Admissions an even more introspective memoir than his first, if such a thing is possible.” —The New York Times

"Consistently entertaining...Honesty is abundantly apparent here--a quality as rare and commendable in elite surgeons as one suspects it is in memoirists." —The Guardian

"Disarmingly frank storytelling...his reflections on death and dying equal those in Atul Gawande's excellent Being Mortal." —The Economist

Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered.

Following the publication of his celebrated New York Times bestseller Do No Harm, Marsh retired from his full-time job in England to work pro bono in Ukraine and Nepal. In Admissions he describes the difficulties of working in these troubled, impoverished countries and the further insights it has given him into the practice of medicine.

Marsh also faces up to the burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student, and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties, and where the overwhelming urge to prolong life can come at a tragic cost for patients and those who love them.

Reflecting on what forty years of handling the human brain has taught him, Marsh finds a different purpose in life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Macmillan
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Published on
May 26, 2015
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781466872806
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Medical (incl. Patients)
Science / Life Sciences / Neuroscience
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In the rapidly-evolving landscape of neurosciences, it is no easy task to select a limited array of topics to present in a text such as this. The current volume takes as its purpose to provide a representative survey of the current science of brain repair for those seeking to establish a foundation in the field or to replenish a prior knowledge base that may have lapsed in its currency. It also hopes to offer insights into what remains elusive to our collective investigations, defining the “frontiers” of brain repair for those that are currently immersed in the exciting intersection of biological advances and neuroscientific discoveries.

In Chapter 1 the fundamentals of imaging transplanted cells is discussed with emphasis on animal models as well as the horizon for clinical trials. Then, detailed methods on the culture of neural stem cells is reviewed as a foundation for approaching therapeutic goals. Chapter 3 presents the broad scope of animal models that serve as the foundation for developmental and pre-clinical investigation, with mention of recent genetically engineered mouse models that represent the best models for studying disease development and treatment. Chapter 4 provides background on the delivery techniques to animals and patients that are available, providing vital information on the subtleties of technique necessary for optimal cellular grafting. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss new and evolving information on the origins of brain tumors and the indelible role of stromal and microenvironmental influences on oncogenesis and tumor progression. Subsequently, the utility of neural stem cells as cellular vehicles to deliver chemotherapeutics to broad neuropathology is reviewed. In Chapter 8 the scope of treating brain tumors is expanded beyond stem cells, to present the best biological interventions to improve upon current treatment options for brain malignancy. The last two chapters present a comprehensive review on stem cell and gene therapy options for treating cerebrovascular and neurovascular pathology.

In amassing this collection, my intention has been to provide the reader with a broad introduction into molecular imaging, stem cell biology, cell therapy, animal models, central nervous system malignancies, stroke, and neurodegeneration. My hope is that Frontiers of Brain Repair will be the intellectual soil from which a deeply rooted and well-nourished vintage of neuroscience will arise.

The 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist, International Bestseller, and a Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2017!

“Marsh has retired, which means he’s taking a thorough inventory of his life. His reflections and recollections make Admissions an even more introspective memoir than his first, if such a thing is possible.” —The New York Times

"Consistently entertaining...Honesty is abundantly apparent here--a quality as rare and commendable in elite surgeons as one suspects it is in memoirists." —The Guardian

"Disarmingly frank storytelling...his reflections on death and dying equal those in Atul Gawande's excellent Being Mortal." —The Economist

Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered.

Following the publication of his celebrated New York Times bestseller Do No Harm, Marsh retired from his full-time job in England to work pro bono in Ukraine and Nepal. In Admissions he describes the difficulties of working in these troubled, impoverished countries and the further insights it has given him into the practice of medicine.

Marsh also faces up to the burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student, and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties, and where the overwhelming urge to prolong life can come at a tragic cost for patients and those who love them.

Reflecting on what forty years of handling the human brain has taught him, Marsh finds a different purpose in life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.

Katrina Firlik is a neurosurgeon, one of only two hundred or so women among the alpha males who dominate this high-pressure, high-prestige medical specialty. She is also a superbly gifted writer–witty, insightful, at once deeply humane and refreshingly wry. In Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Dr. Firlik draws on this rare combination to create a neurosurgeon’s Kitchen Confidential–a unique insider’s memoir of a fascinating profession.

Neurosurgeons are renowned for their big egos and aggressive self-confidence, and Dr. Firlik confirms that timidity is indeed rare in the field. “They’re the kids who never lost at musical chairs,” she writes. A brain surgeon is not only a highly trained scientist and clinician but also a mechanic who of necessity develops an intimate, hands-on familiarity with the gray matter inside our skulls. It’s the balance between cutting-edge medical technology and manual dexterity, between instinct and expertise, that Firlik finds so appealing–and so difficult to master.

Firlik recounts how her background as a surgeon’s daughter with a strong stomach and a keen interest in the brain led her to this rarefied specialty, and she describes her challenging, atypical trek from medical student to fully qualified surgeon. Among Firlik’s more memorable cases: a young roofer who walked into the hospital with a three-inch-long barbed nail driven into his forehead, the result of an accident with his partner’s nail gun, and a sweet little seven-year-old boy whose untreated earache had become a raging, potentially fatal infection of the brain lining.

From OR theatrics to thorny ethical questions, from the surprisingly primitive tools in a neurosurgeon’s kit to glimpses of future techniques like the “brain lift,” Firlik cracks open medicine’s most prestigious and secretive specialty. Candid, smart, clear-eyed, and unfailingly engaging, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe is a mesmerizing behind-the-scenes glimpse into a world of incredible competition and incalculable rewards.
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