The English Surgeon

What is it like to have God like surgical powers, yet to struggle against your own humanity? What is it like to try and save a life, and yet to fail? This film follows brain surgeon Henry Marsh as he openly confronts the dilemmas of the doctor patient relationship on his latest mission to Ukraine.

Henry is one of London’s foremost brain surgeons, but despite being a pioneer in his field he stills rides an old pushbike to work and worries himself sick about the damage he can inflict on his patients. “When push comes to shove we can afford to lose an arm or a leg, but I am operating on people’s thoughts and feelings…and if something goes wrong I can destroy that person’s character ……forever”.

Driven by the need to help others where he can, Henry has been going out to Kyiv for over 15 years to help improve upon the medieval brain surgery he witnessed there during his first visit in 1992. Today the patients see him as the great saviour from the West, desperate parents want him to save their child, and his Ukrainian colleague Igor Kurilets sees him as a guru and a benefactor. But for all the direct satisfaction he gets from going, Henry also sees grossly misdiagnosed patients, children who he can’t save, and a lack of equipment and trained supporting staff. “It’s like selling your soul to the devil, but what can you do? My son had a brain tumour as a baby and I was desperate for someone to help me. I simply can’t walk away from that need in others”.

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  • Jamie

    What a fantastic documentary – loads of feeling and true insight in to the difficulty in weighing up whether a life can be saved or not.  And the devastating issues when you get this wrong.

  • Pete M

    Top doco, and people like him go unnoticed in the West as the masses watch soaps and sports!
    Very moving and both men to be greatly admired. Kind of puts things into perspective when you live in the relative affluence of a Western nation and see what others live like…. very thought provoking.

  • Alain_cmr

    May God bless both surgeons and guide their hands in their future interventions from now. And may the Lord Jesus give comfort to all the people listed in this film. Indeed, we are nothing without sacrificing for others’ happiness. I am sure that I will meet Tanya when my Savior Christ comes back the second time. God is merciful and gracious indeed. Thank you monsieur le chirurgien Anglais. 

  • Alain_cmr

    May God bless both surgeons and guide their hands in their future interventions from now. And may the Lord Jesus give comfort to all the people listed in this film. Indeed, we are nothing without sacrificing for others’ happiness. I am sure that I will meet Tanya when my Savior Christ comes back the second time. God is merciful and gracious indeed. Thank you monsieur le chirurgien Anglais. 

  • Amin

    can’t read the subtitles, can’t turn off the lights without the screen going dark, can’t maximize.

    • Sukreet

      Just zoom in with the browser controls till the video fills up the entire screen…

  • Olga von Lipinski

    It’s sad how much global poverty and needs in a country which is only 2 hours away from London. All respect to those who takes a risk to go there and work.
    Ukraine has nothing to offer own people.
    I did surgeries in Guatemala and it’s more civilized then in Ukraine.

  • John Bamber

    Most inspiring. A truly great documentary. This man should get a knighthood, but he’s also privileged to be able to help people so much. John Bamber

  • Phil Angold

    What an extraordinarily moving film ! – and what dedicated, deeply-compassionate professionals ! BIg-hearted humanitarianism, WRIT LARGE !