Neurosurgeon, Mr Henry Marsh, has opened heads, cut into brains and performed the most delicate and risky surgeries on the part of the body that controls everything — including breathing, movement, memory and consciousness.
“What is, I think, peculiar about brain surgery is it’s so dangerous,” Marsh tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “A very small area of damage to the brain can cause catastrophic disability for the patient.”
Over the course of his career, Marsh, a consulting neurosurgeon at Atkinson Morley’s/St. George’s Hospital in London since 1987, has learned first-hand about the damage that his profession can cause. While many of the operations he has performed have been triumphs, there is always a risk of leaving the patient severely disabled.
In the memoir Do No Harm, Marsh confesses to the fears and uncertainties he’s dealt with as a surgeon, revisits his triumphs and failures and reflects on the enigmas of the brain and consciousness. Despite his decades on the job — or perhaps because of them — Marsh says that much of the brain remains beyond his grasp. He likens the mystery of the brain to that of the big-bang theory. “We’re all sitting on an equally great mystery within ourselves, each of us, in this microcosm of our own consciousness, and I find that a quite nice thought,” he says.
Mr Marsh has long been a great champion of openness, and honesty, within medicine, worldwide, and within the NHS.
Henry Marsh studied medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London, 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. 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, which won an Emmy.
Note: By tradition, surgeons in the UK are not referred to by the title ‘Doctor’, neither do we use the suffix MD. Hence, this fascinating book, is by: Mr Henry Marsh.
Do No Harm, is available at online retailers and bookstores.
Thanks to NPR, for this interview.