Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Henry Marsh, Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon, St George's Hospital, London

Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Henry Marsh, Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon, St George's Hospital, London

Article excerpt

I spent two years studying PPE at Oxford before I ran away to become a hospital porter in a northern mining town. I'd broken up with my girlfriend and wanted to see human suffering. Having some experience of the world helped when I later became a doctor. If I ruled the NHS, I'd make medicine a postgraduate degree.

When I first saw brain surgery, it was love at first sight. It still fills me with awe - I am electrochemistry. When you're operating, nothing else exists. In that way it must be like the best of drugs.

I find the thought of neurosurgery very distressing now. There's so much damage you can do. If you take your eye off the ball for a moment the results can be catastrophic. We don't talk about our mistakes much. I've tried to remember many of mine for lectures.

You learn to lie to patients early on, and the best way to deceive others is to deceive yourself. You have to shut yourself off from their pain, otherwise you couldn't do it. You have to operate in the knowledge that someone else can probably do it better than you can, but if you don't take on difficult cases you'll never learn. So you wear blinkers.

I've always been deeply afraid my patients will think I'm indifferent to their sufferings. …

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