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Do No Harm – and don’t skip this book

I just recently finished Do No Harm:  stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, and I have to say I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would.  In fact, it’s the second medically-related book that I finished recently (the prior being When Breath Becomes Air), and it seems to be a bit of a trend for the non-fiction I’m reading.  In other words, I had friends recommend books to me, and I started checking out things I would not normally have read.

Medically-related texts would fall into that category of “generally overlooked” as I tend to have an aversion to overly graphic medical procedures, either in description or depiction.  Fortunately for me (and perhaps you, as well), Henry Marsh threads that fine line with the deftness of, well, a neurosurgeon.  He takes us into the procedures he going through, explaining what is going to happen – and does happen on the table, in a few instances – with not so much a medical detachment, but a literary embrace.  There is just enough detail there to help you understand the difficulties as a non-medical person, but not so much you just nope out to the next chapter.

As Marsh is walking us through the various cases, with hops back and forth in time, he also opens up, giving the reader a view into the sorts of doubts, fears, and thoughts that are in a surgeon’s head as they look to care for the various maladies that befall their patients.  Marsh manages to do this without coming off as boastful or egotistical.  Quite the contrary – he becomes very much a relatable person in this narrative, without undercutting his hard-won expertise.

While Do No Harm does indeed deal with neurosurgery, do not let that turn you off from checking it out (especially with as inexpensive as it is from Amazon, or free from your local library, as I did).  This is more of a person-driven real life narrative, giving us glimpses into the lives of those on either side of the scalpel.  Marsh has given us a well-written and extremely touching account, and this is a book I would recommend without hesitation.