The memoir of a neurosurgeon, focusing on how dangerous it is for patients, how it's often a complete gamble whether surgery will cure them or kill them (or paralyze them, or leave them in a permanent coma, etc), and how much that gets to the author.

If a book which is largely about the doctor's feelings as opposed to those of his patients, when the catastrophe happened to them rather than to him, annoys you on principle, don't read this. Personally, I liked knowing that there is at least one more doctor in the world who cares what happens to his patients, even if the caring is composed in equal parts of compassion, professional pride, and fear of being publicly shamed.

As that suggests, it's a memoir dedicated to saying how he really feels, whether that's elevated or petty. He spends quite a bit of time on justifiable raging over his hospital's incredibly terrible computer system, which keeps locking up the password so no one can see the scans they need to operate (hilariously, at one point some equally angry person sets the password to fuckyou47 (and then no one can remember if it's 47, 46, 45...), the lack of beds that mean that patients are deprived of food and water all day pending surgery and then the surgery gets canceled, and all the other myriad ways in which health care in England now sucks. (It still sounds about a million times better than health care in America.)

He talks frankly about his mistakes as a surgeon, some of which killed people. This is really a taboo topic, and my hat is off to him for going there.

There's also a lot of fascinating anecdotes about individual patients, and some beautiful writing about surgery, the physical structure of the brain, and the constant paradox of how that one squishy organ is the source of everything that makes us human and able to do things like write books, all of which is a source of wonder to him and one which he conveys very well.

It's definitely worth reading if the subject interests you, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of medical writing that I'd recommend whether the subject interests you or not. (My nominees for the latter are Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, and James Herriot.)

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery
dhampyresa: (Default)

From: [personal profile] dhampyresa


I liked knowing that there is at least one more doctor in the world who cares what happens to his patients

Same here.
nenya_kanadka: Wonder Woman poster (kneeling with sword) (Default)

From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka


I liked knowing that there is at least one more doctor in the world who cares what happens to his patients

Me three. I haven't read the book, but I feel like knowing that a doctor took his work seriously and was deeply affected by what could go wrong and was willing to admit that sometimes he'd done something that hurt someone would make me more likely to trust him (if I had to have brain surgery) than someone who treated it like a game.

Even if the science is also cool, and is part of why I've read the few medical memoirs I have.
kass: white cat; "kass" (Default)

From: [personal profile] kass


It's hard to top Atul Gawande, Oliver Sacks, and James Herriot, honestly. :-)
ekaterinn: amanda from highlander peering over sunglasses, 'whatever.' at the bottom (as if!)

From: [personal profile] ekaterinn


Second-tier to them is still quite excellent (and I *do* like medical writing) - I'll get this once my summer stipend comes in!

And OT: Rachel, my sister and I are writing Comey: A Washington Musical, directly inspired by Hamilton. :) So thanks again for posting and introducing people to the show!

It must be nice
It must be nice
It must be nice
To have Comey on your side!
sovay: (Rotwang)

From: [personal profile] sovay


He talks frankly about his mistakes as a surgeon, some of which killed people. This is really a taboo topic, and my hat is off to him for going there.

Is it taboo because it scares people who might need brain surgery or because it is considered to reflect badly on the profession or some other reason? It makes the book sound interesting to me.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)

From: [personal profile] sovay


I think it's primarily a fear of lawsuits, not just on the part of the surgeons but also from whatever hospital they work in.

That makes sense; I didn't think of it.
lokifan: black Converse against a black background (Default)

From: [personal profile] lokifan


Much less likely to happen here in the UK, for what that's worth - or at least doctors are much less scared of it. Although it's still a pretty taboo topic; knowing it happens is different from individuals being willing to talk about specifics.
kore: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kore


Any confession of liability opens up not just the surgeon but the hospital or clinic they're in to great big medical malpractice lawsuits, yeah, and hospital insurance companies hate that.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

From: [personal profile] davidgillon


Considering one or two of the doctors I've met, any reminder that God doesn't sit at their right hand isn't going to go down well.

Fortunately I've probably met as least as many truly excellent ones.
mildred_of_midgard: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mildred_of_midgard


Rachel should appreciate this:

I'm pursuing an online genetics program from Stanford, and a couple days ago, the lecturer quoted, "In God we trust; all others bring data," and went on to say, "Now, many surgeons think they're gods, but at least one surgeon thought data was the answer." Then he described the clinical trials that resulted from the unicorn surgeon who valued data over established practice.
littlerhymes: the fox and the prince (Default)

From: [personal profile] littlerhymes


Thank you for reviewing this one! It sounds fascinating. I'm especially into hearing more about his thoughts on healthcare systems...
.

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