The English Surgeon

Even God Can't Save Everyone

93 minutes 9.3/10 based on 37 votes

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”.

Released in 2007. Director: Geoffrey Smith. Documentary film.

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Discuss This Documentary

  • Giova

    Amazing work! Very inspiring too. Thank you for uploading this documentary.

  • hello world

    This documentary froze after about 30 minutes. Then crashed my laptop. Please check and fix if necessary. Cheers!

    The part I saw was fascinating. Surgeon is UK based and works for NHS (state funded health service). He is shown trying to make sense of the NHS software. I used to work for NHS (as psychotherapist) and the software/administration was a nightmare. I quit NHS work partly to escape that — each hour spent with patients, I spent four hours on paperwork! Wrong proportion of my time! Felt great sympathy with this guy’s frustrations with NHS (although surgeons better supported than therapists, so he has less to complain about than others but that’s another story). Anyway, very moved by all the people (staff/patients) introduced through the documentary. Looking forward to seeing the rest — the film froze for me just at the point when a grandmother was told her grandchild had an inoperable tumour and would be dead within 1 year. The screen froze on her face. The expression was deeply affecting. And being frozen it was like an oil painting by a genius: looking deep into a soul as it is robbed of hope. God help us all. Amen.

    • Hi,

      I’m afraid the documentary works fine. Please try reloading it and forward it to the part you reached.

  • Caligula

    One AMAZING documentary! I give all the credit in the world to this man. I do not trust many people in the “health care industry” (depending which country I am in at the time), but I would allow him to be my “Doc” any day =)

    Wish that there were not only more doctors out in the World such as Him, but just People of Humanity.

  • Viewer

    Great documentary and great surgeons…I hope Igor Petrovich builds his hospital…

  • Jack

    To bad its not in full screen

  • Paul

    to get this film full screen then search for it directly on the culture unplugged website. Amazing film.

  • Tom R

    This film will change your life.

  • Peggy

    Two lovely caring men? Just amazing work they do.

  • Barry_G_Wick

    I’ve stumbled on this documentary just several weeks after a new friend was suddenly diagnosed with a glioblastoma. His surgery was just 11 days ago with uncertain outcome. I have since talked with him on the phone…and he’s so alone…and I really cannot afford to go visit him as he is nearly 500 miles from my home and, quite frankly, I’m a poor man. So he cries on the phone…I cannot hug him or hold his hand. He has no family now. It is terribly frustrating. I don’t wish to change the situation but I have a little money coming in and whether or not I drive there and back is a decision yet to be made. Certainly, I’ll be confronted with the decision within the week. His left side is now paralyzed though is there some movement. He wants to fight…he was a truly excellent physical specimen prior to this sudden change in left-side feelings. He worked-out regularly…we are, frankly, physical opposites…and I have some health problems as well. This was hard to watch, but a reminder of successes and of loss in my own life. We don’t control these things. I’ve learned that I control nothing except a very small footprint on this earth…and then it could all be taken at any moment. Part of my decision to go will be that I will probably kick myself later if I do not go. It is a decision much like Dr. Marsh’s in this film…if you do nothing, there’s no possibility of a good or at least better outcome for the patient. If I don’t go see my friend, he don’t know that I care so much about him. We’ve only talked on Skype for less than two months…and now this. I’m 63, he’s 68…and we’ve both gone through the greater part of our lives…so wish me luck on the right decision. I’m sure I’ll go, but it will painful in some ways…eh…what is money for anyway?

  • Daniel White

    Like to watch it, but can’t find a link for watching it. Just various ads

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