Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery

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 life-saving 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, Henry Marsh must make agonising decisions, often in the face of great urgency and uncertainty.

If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft, practised by calm and detached surgeons, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candour, one of the country’s leading neurosurgeons reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets and the moments of black humour that characterise a brain surgeon’s life.

Do No Harm is an 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.


I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour earlier this year and was intrigued to read this which centres on neurosurgery. I have a morbid fascination with medical things and after reading about the number of different types on brain tumours both operable and inoperable I was looking forward to learning more from the surgeon’s point of view.

This is a very honest and open book which has many short chapters, each focusing on individual case studies – different tumours and different patients all with their own complications or considerations. Whist there are some upsetting chapters they each give a different perspective on what needs to be taken into consideration prior to each and every surgery. Do No Harm gives an interesting glimpse into what it’s like to be a neurosurgeon and the things they go through inside and outside of the surgical theatre.

I was fascinated by the stories of time spent working in the Ukraine as well as around the UK within the NHS. In all this is an enlightening insight into the world of neurosurgery from Dr Henry Marsh. He is a man who whilst obviously extremely talented and a true life saver also comes across as absolutely human, tormented when things go wrong and truly grateful when things go right.


  • TITLE: Do No Harm
  • AUTHOR: Henry Marsh
  • PUBLISHER: Orion Books
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 23 October 2014


Kindle version available on Amazon for 99p today!




Henry Marsh read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University before studying medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He 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, where he still works full time.

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, featuring his work in the Ukraine, which won an EMMY award. He was made a CBE in 2010. He is married to the anthropologist and writer Kate Fox.


One response to “Do No Harm by Henry Marsh”

  1. I “read” this as an audiobook a little while ago, and agree it is a fascinating book. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, and send you love and positive thoughts. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: