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BJS Bookshelf: The Butchering Art

Authors: Recommendation and Article by Dr Ameera AlHasan, Specialist General and Colorectal Surgeon, Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital, Kuwait, @A160186
Dr Ameera AlHasan

Penguin, 2017

Chosen quote from the book:

Every patient, even the most degraded, should be treated with the same care and regard as though he were the Prince of Wales himself.”

                                                        -Joseph Lister

Surgery has not always been as clean and orderly as it is today. In fact, nineteenth century surgery was absolutely gruesome; patients were lucky if they made it out alive. Hospitals were more commonly known as “houses of death”. Patients suffered inconceivable pain in the absence of anaesthesia and frequently succumbed to infections since neither sterilization nor antibiotics existed back then. If you enjoy reading about the history of surgery, then this book is for you. Author and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris outdid herself in this intricate account of the life and career of one of history’s pioneer surgeons. Joseph Lister has left an indelible mark on the world of surgery as the father of antisepsis. In this book, we meet Lister the surgeon, the scientist and the man. Clever, tenacious, with a tremendous love for surgery and a greater commitment to his patients, we see how Lister climbed the ladder to greatness. He was unique in being a surgeon well versed in using the microscope and daring enough to perform his sister’s mastectomy on his own dining table. This magnificent book is filled with such detailed accounts from Lister’s life, told in a thrilling and distinctive manner.

As modern surgeons, it is critical that we read and reflect on the lives of our surgical forefathers in the hopes of one day emulating their success as surgeons, scientists, and innovators, and understanding their shortcomings given the times. The Butchering Art is a book you will not put down and one that will continue to inspire you long after you have finished reading it.


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