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Do No Harm

Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


Winner of the PEN Ackerley Prize and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award; Duff Cooper Prize; Wellcome Book Prize; Guardian First Book Award; and Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize

Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction

What is it like to be a brain surgeon?

How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?

How do you live with the consequences when it all goes wrong?

DO NO HARM offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its exquisite complexity. With astonishing candour and compassion, Henry Marsh reveals the exhilarating drama of surgery, the chaos and confusion of a busy modern hospital, and above all the need for hope when faced with life's most agonising decisions.

From Publishers Weekly

09 March 2015 – In this memoir of a long career, English neurosurgeon Marsh reveals both a "weary and knowing skepticism" and a striking determination to help the desperately ill despite the uncertainties. "The operating is the easy part, you know," he writes of one neurosurgeon's advice to him; "the difficulties are all to do with the decision-making." Marsh's remarkable, unblinking honesty shines through in each of the starkly different cases he describes, including a little boy with a progressive cancer whose family came to believe he could "go on being treated forever"; the death "without regret" of his own mother from metastasized breast cancer; and the devastating outcome of a difficult operation on an 11-year-old Ukrainian girl with a large but benign brain tumor that was slowly killing her. Surprisingly humble and introspective, Marsh can be hard on himself: "It's not the successes I remember, or so I like to think, but the failures." The stubborn bureaucracy of Britain's healthcare system merits its own harsh meditation, though Marsh tempers his deep distrust of the system with compassion. This thoughtful doctor provides a highly personal and fascinating look inside the elite world of neurosurgery, appraising both its amazing successes as well as its sobering failures.

Customer Reviews


Loved it! Great insight into neurology! 👌


I am someone who has not read any literature in about 6 years but read this book in under a week. As a medical student myself, although one with no interest in surgery, I found it compelling reading and identified with Mr Marsh's tails of hospital hierachy and politics. A fascinating insight into his career with an honest scinicism throughout.

Primum non noci

What a wonderful, scary, funny, upsetting, touching engrossing, and utterly unputdownable book. What a career, life, and point of view. A privilege to read.
If you read nothing else this year, read this.

Do No Harm
View in iTunes
  • £3.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biography
  • Published: 13 March 2014
  • Publisher: Orion
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings