Fragile Lives- Prof. Stephen Westaby


Stephen Westaby is a renowned NHS heart surgeon. His career has seen many advances in heart surgery and treatment, and lots of complicated and major operations.



I have been wanting to read ‘Fragile Lives’ for a long time, especially after loving ‘Do No Harm‘, but I was a bit nervous so I didn’t read it as soon as I got it. Instead, completely by coincidence, I ended up reading it over the anniversary of my operation.

I’m still not entirely sure it was the best time to read it. It was kind of nerve racking at the time (but then again I did read ‘Do No Harm’ whilst in hospital, so you know, not the worst time!). In terms of heart surgery mine was one of the most simple surgeries you can get, I wasn’t even expecting it to be included with the book. It was in the book, but not until right near the end, and actually it was more complicated because the woman was pregnant. I couldn’t put the book down at that point, and it was scary, but actually in the end quite uplifting.

I found the different stories really interesting. I hadn’t realised quite how many advances had been made in heart care. The most amazing to me was a pump which could effectively replace the heart. It would keep blood flow going without a pulse and very little blood pressure, if you were to look at most heart monitoring machines you would think this person was dead. It really is amazing.

Despite surgeons being seen as unsympathetic and unemotional, and Westaby saying that being unemotional is important to be a good surgeon, he does come across as caring.

One thing though that came across was that some of the things Westaby was doing couldn’t really be afforded. Westaby seems angry about this, and it is a hard thing, because it would be impossible for the NHS to afford everything, and a balance is something very difficult to make. I talked about this on my instagram, and twitter, so rather than writing again I will just post it here.

View this post on Instagram

Westaby's frustration with the #NHS isn't as obvious as that shown in Marsh's book but the closer I get to the end the more I see it. It's a hard topic to talk about- how NHS funds should be spent. It seems a waste when a life saved or improved but can't be because of money, and I'm not sure it could be fixed either. Privatisation wouldn't work either because then it would mean that there would be a second class who can't afford healthcare which they would have got for free on an NHS type system. When people's lives are at stake then it seems inhumane to leave decisions down to money, but there is really not alternative. NHS funding could be better, and maybe spent better too, but there will always be a point where something can't be afforded. I have said many times how much I value the NHS, without it I don't know where I would be… if I would be. I feel it's being let down, but I also realise it can never be perfect

A post shared by Lucybird's Book Blog (@lucybirdbookblog) on


Buy it:

Paperback (£3.99)

Kindle (£2.99)

Hardcover (£10.98)

Other reviews:

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

1 Comment

Filed under Biography, medical, Memoir, non-fiction review

One response to “Fragile Lives- Prof. Stephen Westaby

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday to Me | Lucybird's Book Blog

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