An NHS surgeon’s retrospective look at his career

A fascinating look at the life of an NHS urology surgeon and the dramas he faced.

Cover of the book ‘Tender is the scalpel’s edge’, by Gautam Das

There must have been nothing more reassuring for his patients as they drifted off into anaesthetic oblivion than the knowledge that their surgeon was a certain Gautam Das.

In this autobiographical account of his career as a consultant urological surgeon in the NHS, Das reveals the determination, humanity and sheer hard work that took him to the peak of his profession. He describes the key events and people that shaped him and his skills, from his early life and medical training in Calcutta, India, to mentors from various branches of medicine, to everyday surgical experiences at Croydon University Hospital.

Most chapters are individual case histories, describing the patient’s medical condition and their operation with surgical precision, but explaining their back story with great empathy and a moving appreciation of the significance of the surgery to their lives. Whether he is saving a patient’s life in the accident and emergency department by removing their damaged kidney, or on-call for transplant organ retrieval, the stories provide an insight into the daily drama of a surgeon’s work and the highs and lows of medical care. Readers may be inspired to pursue a career in surgery by its monumental challenges and enormous job satisfaction, or discouraged by the complete dedication and tremendous responsibility required.

This paperback is well written and easy to read. But it will not win any literary prizes, and the odd use of archaic words such as ‘lambent’ or ‘bibulous’ occasionally interrupts the flow. Although anatomical details and surgical techniques are described in detail, any technical jargon is explained and there is no need to keep a medical dictionary to hand. These real-life stories may not have the mass appeal of ‘Holby city’ or the creative drama of ‘House’, but for anyone with an interest in healthcare, or for those with a penchant for biography, this is a thoroughly good read.

Steve Bremer




Tender is the scalpel’s edge, by Gautam Das. Pp xi+241 Price 9.99. Leicester: Troubador Publishing; 2017. ISBN 978 1 78589 844 0

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May, Vol 298, No 7901;298(7901):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202326

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