Dr. Christine Newman's turning point

Dr. Christine Newman's path to becoming a children's palliative care doctor at the Hosptial for Sick Children in Toronto.

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One particular case in the neonatal intensive care unit started Dr. Christine Newman on the road to becoming a palliative care doctor.

Newman began her career as a physician in the NICU "taking care of premature and sick babies" over 25 years ago.
Dr. Christine Newman, palliative care doctor at the Hospital for Sick Children, reached a turning point when she wanted to learn more about helping dying children and their families. (The Hospital for Sick Children/SickKids)

In some cases parents make a decision, based on the recommendation of their doctor, to take their child off life support. "The babies may survive for a period of hours or a day or two, but I had a case where this young boy I was involved with lived up to seven days," she says.

On day eight, the baby ran into trouble and the family began to fear that he was suffering. But complications prevented Newman from being able to administer medication to ease any pain. 

"When I was asked what I could do to help him, my first thought was well I’m not really sure I know what I can do. I’m not sure that I have a really good understanding of what he might be feeling, capable of feeling, I’m not sure that I completely understand the suffering that his family is feeling now that it’s been a week and that’s something I need to learn more about," she says.

Newman took a year long sabbatical to learn about palliative care. Soon after returning, she began work as a member of the palliative care team at SickKids.