Do No Harm Review

Henry Marsh has produced a wonderfully cathartic piece of writing. The book starts with a quote from René Leriche:

Every surgeon carries about him a little cemetery, in which from time to time he goes to pray, a cemetery of bitterness and regret, of which he seeks the reasons of his failures [1]

And Henry Marsh, during the course his book exhumes many of those that he sent there. Twenty five chapters, each bearing a the tittle of pathology take us through his career; from an undergraduate at Oxford studying PPE, to becoming a medical student and the usual disillusionment with being a junior doctor, to Ukraine, to a failed marriage and his own son’s brain tumour we glimpse what it must be like to be the neurosurgeon Henry Marsh.

Marsh is incredibly candid about the mistakes he makes; being at the top of your field and the end of your career perhaps allows for more honesty than you may find from most doctors. The book, which allegedly moved David Cameron to tears, can be read fruitfully by all but I would especially urge those in clinical practice to do so. Most doctors carry their own daemons and in out currently medical culture is not always easy to exorcise them. Reading Marsh maybe the closest we can get.

Items Reviewed

Book: Do No Harm
Author: Henry Marsh
Year: 2014


[1] La philosophie de la chirurgie, René Leriche (1951)

[2] Book that made David Cameron cry makes Wellcome Book Prize shortlist, The Telegraph, URL:


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