The author of Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery is a British neurosurgeon who, surprisingly candidly, recalls his professional life and never shies away from discussing mistakes, his and others’, mistakes that, considering his line of work, leave patients disabled and occasionally dead. I doubt that American lawyers would have given a green light to such a book, even if full of pseudonyms.
I was most interested in two aspects of the book. One is the poor management of the hospital where he worked. I would have thought that the time of neurosurgeons is precious so that hospital management would seek to maximize their utilization. Instead, it seems that patient beds are in short supply and shortages regularly delay surgeries. Odd, right? The other is the author’s anguish at giving patients and patients’ families bad news, usually completely unrelated to the errors mentioned above. It seems that giving physicians and all health care professionals better training and support to accomplish these grim tasks would help, at least as much as having enough beds.