Mr. C. writes:
Have I lived a good life? What have I done for others that they will miss me when I'm gone? These self-interrogations crowd in upon us as we grow old, and according to taste can be either a spur to action or a counsel of despair. In reading Henry Marsh's story of his career as a neurosurgeon, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery, there are many dark episodes of unmerited suffering or sudden, cruel tragedy; lives ruined or cut short in spite of, or worse still because of the efforts of medical science. But this is not a fatalistic misery memoir. The author is a humane and generous man who is well aware that the patients under his knife are not anaesthetised specimens but real human beings, with their own sometimes messy and complicated lives, and it is this sympathy - in the literal sense - which shines through the whole book. He is frank about his mistakes, frustrated by the often bizarre bureaucracy of the NHS, but through all the confusion there emerges a bracing but ultimately positive message. Life is precious and fragile; any of us may be struck down at any minute; but that makes it all the more important to savour life and to treat other people well. This is an exceptional book by an exceptional and admirable person.