Do No Harm
Christina McDonald
Gallery Books 2021
ISBN 978-19821-4261-2

Christina McDonald’s novel, “Do No Harm,” is a vexing story that pivots around parents who resort to nightmarish measures to fund medical treatment for their dying son.

Mother Emma has just finished her residency and is practicing medicine, and husband Nate, a police detective, together earn just enough pay their rent. But their lives are upended when son Josh is diagnosed with an acute case of leukemia. CAR T-cell therapy is the only treatment that can save Josh’s life but at a cost of half-million dollars. Their health insurance company meanwhile lists numerous reasons why they won’t cover the cost.

Desperate to save Josh, Emma begins selling opioid prescriptions to drug dealers. She falls deep into the grisly side of of crime. Our “medical system. It’s failing all of us,” she laments, saying her cash need has sent her into a “weird place inside myself.”

McDonald doesn’t spare readers the wretched pain suffered by a child undergoing radical medical treatment. She weaves a tale of conflicted feelings, questioning the moral judgement of a mother willing to essentially kill others with opioids to save her child.

… not a book for the faint of heart.

Father Nate is equally devastated by his son’s illness and his inability to pay for treatment, so he begins working overtime. But then he accepts an assignment that puts him in the same line of fire as Emma’s new criminal side opioid enterprise: In charge of a task force with federal authority to uncover gangs running drugs, “before more oxyContin and fentanyl hit the streets.”

This raw emotional story echoes fear that would result when denied necessary available health treatment due to lack of funds. And it brings into question of how far a parent can morally go to save their child. It’s a challenging read for sure, and not a book for the faint of heart.