Suddenly "I" Was "Them" - when the baby of a bioethics director is admitted to the NICU by Felicia Cohn

Suddenly, I was a “them.” The moment that should have been the most joyous in my life became the most tragic. In the shift from health care professional to mother of a critically ill newborn, I learned things that redefined both my life and my professional identity. Never before had the “us vs them” divide been so clear. I had worked in the “us” role for years and was comfortable and confident in my ability to understand “them.” I knew that health care professionals were supposed to be powerful, authoritative, and knowledgeable. Families, I knew, were supposed to be vulnerable, dependent, and fragile. I thought that I was able to bridge that divide pretty well. With the birth of my child, Amanda, I became a “them.” In that moment, I was thrust into the role of the NICU mother. I had long sympathized with and supported such mothers. I could now truly empathize with those parents whom I had witnessed standing helplessly next to the small bassinets in the most technological of settings, crying many tears and uttering daily prayers of healing and thankfulness for modern medicine. When it was my own baby, I tried to draw on all that I had learned and taught in my role as a bioethicist. My experience provided little solace. My knowledge base failed me. From this experience, I have come to understand the world of the patient and the limits of empathy. I continue to struggle with three questions that my daughter’s illness occasioned all too personally: the nature of the questions physicians pose to our patients/families; the reliability of the informed consent process; and the just allocation of health care resources.
Read full article (PDF). Thanks to Janis for sharing with NICU's Family Centered Care Committee at SickKids.

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