Henry Marsh is one of Britain's leading neurosurgeons, who has a long and illustrious career of taking on some of the most challenging mysteries that the human brain can present, with stunning results.
Dr. Marsh talks to Kathryn Ryan about some of the greatest triumphs and heartbreaks of his work – and why he’s walking away from Britain’s National Health System.
Henry Marsh consulting scans. Photo by G. Smith.
Henry Marsh, currently based at St. George’s Hospital in Tooting, has been a consultant neurosurgeon since 1987 and is one of the most senior and experienced neurosurgeons in the United Kingdom. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010, and has this year published the book Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery.
He is a world expert in the practice of neurosurgery where the patient is under only local anaesthetic, and he has also been a pioneer of neurosurgical advances in Ukraine - with an acclaimed documentary The English Surgeon made about his efforts there.
But in his new memoir, Dr. Marsh draws aside the curtain to the inner workings of the mind of the surgeon himself, revealing with brutal honesty the vulnerability, doubt, and sometimes agonising heartbreak of a career where a life hangs in the balance every time he picks up the scalpel.
I say jokingly in the book that neurosurgery is mountaineering for cowards – because it’s not your life at risk. But Mountaineering is a vanity, it is narcissistic – you're trying only to overcome yourself, it doesn’t make the world a better place, it doesn’t help anybody else. Whereas surgery, the whole purpose is to help other people, and that the patient should do well, If the patient does badly then you’ve failed completely…
Dr. Marsh talks to Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon about some of the greatest triumphs and heartbreaks of his work – and why he’s walking away from Britain’s National Health System.
Henry Marsh operating in Ukraine. Photo by G. Smith.