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A surgeon unmasked

Books | By Michael Barber

'Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery' by Henry Marsh is reviewed by Michael Barber

Henry Marsh believes there are fates worse than death. Regrettably, after thirty years at the sharp end of neurosurgery, he has been personally responsible for some of them. As he once wrote, ‘The more I think of my past, the more mistakes rise to the surface, like poisonous methane stirred up from a stagnant pool.’ Such honesty is rare in public life, particularly among high achievers. So too are such arresting similes. But then Marsh came to medicine late, after a grounding in the humanities at Westminster School and Oxford, where he took a First in PPE. He also spent six months working as a hospital theatre porter, a therapeutic act of rebellion that serendipitously exposed him to what surgery had to offer: ‘I found its controlled and altruistic violence deeply appealing.’ Fast forward to the present and the satisfaction that surgery still affords him is tempered by his loathing...

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