Henry Marsh is a doctor who writes interesting “Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery” (that’s the subtitle of this book). I’ve always been interested in medicine, so I lap up books like this one. I’m a fan of Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande, for instance. While it’s terrifying to know so much about what can go wrong, it also fascinates me. The complexity of our bodies is astonishing!
Marsh also pulls no punches about his frustration with the bureaucracy in the NHS in England. He is amazed at the tolerance of patients for it. A waiting room full of people who are scheduled for neurosurgery are packed together in the morning, and they may or may not be operated on. Nonetheless, they have to endure listening to the litany of the risks of the each person’s surgery as one by one they sign the consent forms. Over and over: “Death, permanent paralysis…” Near the end of the book, Marsh is trying to get the computer system to bring up a brain scan as a patient and his family waits and waits. He enters all of the various passwords he has for the many systems used in the hospital. None will work. He runs upstairs to the X-ray Dept. “Use fuckoff45, that one works the best” he’s told. Actually, it’s fuckoff47 that works, because passwords are required to be changed every month!
Marsh speaks honestly about doctor-patient relationships. So complicated. I enjoyed listening to this book.