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Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon

by Henry Marsh

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2341298,600 (3.78)11
The 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist,International Bestseller, and a KirkusBest Nonfiction Book of 2017! "Marsh has retired, which means he's taking a thorough inventory of his life. His reflections and recollections makeAdmissionsan even more introspective memoir than his first, if such a thing is possible."--The New York Times "Disarmingly frank storytelling...his reflections on death and dying equal those in Atul Gawande's excellentBeing Mortal."--The Economist Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered. Following the publication of his celebratedNew York TimesbestsellerDo No Harm, Marsh retired from his full-time job in England to work pro bono in Ukraine and Nepal. InAdmissions he describes the difficulties of working in these troubled, impoverished countries and the further insights it has given him into the practice of medicine. Marsh also faces up to the burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student, and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties, and where the overwhelming urge to prolong life can come at a tragic cost for patients and those who love them. Reflecting on what forty years of handling the human brain has taught him, Marsh finds a different purpose in life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.… (more)
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English (11)  Danish (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Atul Gawande's Being Mortal is a more thoughtful examination of life and death on those growing older. His manner is more comforting and his writing style more comfortable. That said, Henry Marsh is grumpy, a little crotchety, and, refreshingly, he allows those manners to come through in his writing, taking to task his friends and patients and families and even episodes from his own personal life.

I made a number of passage notes, but these two excerpts come from the final chapter, which was my favorite for their summing up:

Life by its very nature is reluctant to end. It is as though we are hardwired for hope, to always feel that we have a future. (264)

We have to choose between probabilities, not certainties, and that is difficult. How probable is it that we will gain how many extra years of life, and what might the quality of those years be, if we bust ourselves to the pain and unpleasantness of treatment? And what is the probability that the treatment will cause severe side effects that outweigh any possible benefits? … And yet it has been estimated that in the developed world, 75% of our lifetime medical costs are incurred in the last six months of our lives. This is the price of hope, hope which, by the laws of probability, is so often unrealistic. And thus we often end up inflicting both great suffering on ourselves and unsustainable expense on society. (265-266) ( )
  markburris | Jul 11, 2021 |
Compared to Do No Harm, this book doesn't dwell on brain surgeries that much. Marsh focuses more on his experiences in Nepal and Ukraine and dwells on subjects such as death and religion. More than once, he explained why he doesn't think there is life after death. I am not sure why this is such a preoccupation with him but at least he wasn't dogmatic. And of course, expect the bashing of NHS. Nevertheless, still a good read as Marsh writes of his fragility, again throwing off the cloak of invincibility of doctors. ( )
  siok | Sep 13, 2020 |
Once again, a highly readable memoir of being a neurosurgeon and also a visiting neurosurgeon in both Nepal and Ukraine. Unflinchingly frank and honest, this is a book that deals with marriage breakdown, depression, regret and also ambition and drive. It looks at a great surgeon, a humanist and also a villain, all of which Henry Marsh is, through the prism of his memory and experiences. Recommended. ( )
  aadyer | Jul 8, 2020 |
A highly respected neurosurgeon approaching retirement shares important and candid insights into modern healthcare and discusses the shortcomings of end of life/hospice care in today's hospitals. ( )
  dele2451 | Jan 28, 2019 |
Admissions is by Henry Marsh, a British neurosurgeon, who is retiring from the NHS, but continues to teach and perform surgery in places like Nepal and the Ukraine. I think neurosurgeons need to be equal parts huge ego and a lot of humility at the mystery of the brain. He has some good insights on when he thinks medicine is practiced well and when it is not (he doesn't have a lot of great things to say about privatized health care). ( )
  strandbooks | May 31, 2018 |
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The 2017 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Finalist,International Bestseller, and a KirkusBest Nonfiction Book of 2017! "Marsh has retired, which means he's taking a thorough inventory of his life. His reflections and recollections makeAdmissionsan even more introspective memoir than his first, if such a thing is possible."--The New York Times "Disarmingly frank storytelling...his reflections on death and dying equal those in Atul Gawande's excellentBeing Mortal."--The Economist Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered. Following the publication of his celebratedNew York TimesbestsellerDo No Harm, Marsh retired from his full-time job in England to work pro bono in Ukraine and Nepal. InAdmissions he describes the difficulties of working in these troubled, impoverished countries and the further insights it has given him into the practice of medicine. Marsh also faces up to the burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering. Unearthing memories of his early days as a medical student, and the experiences that shaped him as a young surgeon, he explores the difficulties of a profession that deals in probabilities rather than certainties, and where the overwhelming urge to prolong life can come at a tragic cost for patients and those who love them. Reflecting on what forty years of handling the human brain has taught him, Marsh finds a different purpose in life as he approaches the end of his professional career and a fresh understanding of what matters to us all in the end.

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