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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More by Henry Marsh

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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.

4.6
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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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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Medical
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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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.


From the Hardcover edition.
“Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King”* in this propulsive, haunting journey into the life of the most studied human research subject of all time, the amnesic known as Patient H.M. For readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks comes a story that has much to teach us about our relentless pursuit of knowledge.

Winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award • Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • New York Post • NPR • The Economist • New York • Wired • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage

In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world.

Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.

“An exciting, artful blend of family and medical history.”—The New York Times

*Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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