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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 256

Under the knife: Surgical stories from around the world

Department of Pathology, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Malleswaram, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2017

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay A Pai
Department of Pathology, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Malleswaram, Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/iju.IJU_157_17

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How to cite this article:
Pai SA. Under the knife: Surgical stories from around the world. Indian J Urol 2017;33:256

How to cite this URL:
Pai SA. Under the knife: Surgical stories from around the world. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jun 25];33:256. Available from:

Author: Gulzar Mufti

Publisher: The Book Guild Ltd., Leicestershire

Year: 2016

Pages: 232

ISBN: 9781910878828

Price: £ 8.99

Everyone loves stories - be it a child or an adult and be it a doctor or a layperson. The genre of stories that one likes varies and may involve humor, action, morals, romance, or tragedy. Medicine is a field where every patient–doctor interaction is a potential story and which may revolve around any, and often, many of the above possibilities simultaneously.

Gulzar Mufti is a consultant urologist in the UK. He is of Indian origin and trained in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. For this book, he asked surgical colleagues and friends from all over the world (but, as one would expect, largely from UK and India with some from the USA, Pakistan, the Caribbean, Iraq, etc.) to tell him their personal memorable anecdotes from their work life. He has been successful in getting thought-provoking stories. The rich tapestry that he weaves encompasses much of the emotions and lives that surgeons and most other doctors experience - their surgical success, as well as sadly, the occasional defeat, and miracles where patients made unexpected and unexplained recoveries from illness or surgery.

Mufti's skill lies in not just collecting these unusual, humorous, and inspiring stories from around the world and narrating them so well, but in fact, quite like a surgeon with a suture, skillfully sewing them up together to achieve coherence and establish a central message in each of his chapters. After a few initial chapters devoted to his early years in Kashmir and influences on his life, Mufti proceeds with the anecdotes – including an occasional Rabelaisian anecdote! – in chapters entitled The aura, The theatre, Female surgeons, Unusual encounters, Gratitude and trust, etc., The stereotypes of the surgical persona (swearing, throwing instruments, and being prima donnas) are reinforced in some stories from the past and the change to today's system is obvious. Not only surgeons but also laypeople (who are probably the primary audience for this book) will derive great pleasure and not a little learning from it. Topics such as confidentiality and patient autonomy as well as other aspects of medicine not always mentioned in the textbooks come to the fore, as Mufti and colleagues (narrating their stories in Mufti's words) tell us how they dealt with the situation. In passing, I must mention that I discovered, to my great surprise, that the number of “Never events” (wrong-site surgery, retained swab, etc.) in National Health Service England in 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 were 290 and 312, respectively (page 199). Given the adherence to protocol in the West, and with disciplined surgeons in a smaller country, if these are the numbers, I shudder to think of what India's figures would be.

Because, for obvious reasons, the stories have been anonymized, we do not know the identities of most of the characters in these anecdotes and that is occasionally a pity. Who would not want to know the identity of the tough, forbidding woman surgeon who actually is more humane than any of us (page 95)?

For various reasons, the profession of medicine clearly does not hold the awe among the general public and among students (potential doctors). This is a great pity because the health of future generations lies in their hands. Reading this book should serve as some sort of an antidote and will, hopefully, influence some to take up this incredibly challenging, sometimes unforgiving, but for the most part, rewarding (intellectually) profession.


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