A Tribute to Dr. Christine Harrison

Christine Harrison

In this issue, we pay tribute to Dr. Christine Harrison. Christine was a leading member of the JCB from its beginning in 1995, a dear colleague, mentor and friend to many in the JCB community, who left us far too soon in June of this year. We've chosen the November issue of The JCB Voice to coincide with SickKids' Bioethics Week held each year in November, which also includes the annual Christine Harrison Paediatric Grand Rounds. In the article, you will find details of this special annual lecture, as well as the Bioethics Week schedule, and a link to a recent webcast of an event hosted by SickKids Bioethics Department dedicated to Christine's leading work in paediatric bioethics. In an attempt to describe some of Christine's many contributions over the years, we've drawn from a letter of support written by the then JCB Leadership Team (Ross Upshur, Jennifer Gibson and Barbara Secker) and a nomination letter from Randi Zlotnik Shaul (Bioethicist at The Hospital for Sick Children) for Christine's nomination for the Canadian Bioethics Society Lifetime Achievement Award, which she won in 2011.


Excerpts from the letter of support and the nomination letter (edited):


Dr. Christine Harrison had an exceptional twenty-year career in health care ethics. Christine's academic training, clinical training, university appointments, research activity, teaching, mentorship, committee work and lectures all reflected a clear focus on health care ethics in her lifetime achievements.


Education and Employment


Christine obtained her PhD in biomedical ethics in 1990 from McMaster University, and specialty training in clinical ethics at the Hamilton Civic Hospital, and the Hamilton-Wentworth Victorian Order of Nurses and Home care program in Hamilton Ontario. Christine also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Educational Centre for Aging and Health at McMaster University. Christine began working as a Bioethicist at The Hospital for Sick Children in 1993 and was Director of its Bioethics Department from 1996-2011. Christine's appointments at the University of Toronto included Assistant Professor from 1995-2004, Associate Professor from 2004-2015, and Bioethics Coordinator for Postgraduate Medicine—paediatrics, paediatric critical care, paediatric emergency medicine, paediatric infectious diseases, paediatric nephrology and paediatric respirology.


Contributions to the University of Toronto and the Joint Centre for Bioethics


For nearly two decades, Christine was an active member and leader at the Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) and, prior to 1995, the Centre for Bioethics. She had been pivotal in the development and growth of our community of practice for health care ethicists—the Clinical, Organizational, and Research Ethics (CORE) Network—as well as the main education and training programs administered by the JCB. These include the MHSc in Bioethics Program, the Collaborative Graduate Program in Bioethics, and the (formerly) Academic Fellowship in Clinical and Organizational Ethics.


Within the CORE Network (a group of over 30 practicing health care ethicists and fellows working in JCB-affiliated health care organizations), Christine's unparalleled leadership role cannot be overstated. In fact, she was instrumental in creating and chairing (from 1997-99) a forerunner of this network, the former Clinical Ethics Group. She was a highly respected member of the CORE Network and had formally or informally mentored the vast majority of its 30-plus members.


Christine Harrison

Christine's leadership roles in the CORE Network were many and varied, including Coordinator of the Child Health Ethics Research Network (1996-98), member of the CORE Network Advisory Committee (which now includes the former Fellowship Advisory Committee) (2007-10), and Co-Chair of the Accreditation and Ethics Working Group (2008-11). She was regarded by all as the most experienced senior member of the CORE Network, a terrific mentor, and someone from whom to seek sage feedback and advice. This, together with her generosity in responding to questions, sharing materials developed by her Bioethics Department, and finding or creating opportunities for junior colleagues, made her the top role model and collaborator in the CORE Network.


Christine also made tremendous contributions to U of T graduate bioethics programs administered by the JCB. In the MHSc in Bioethics Program, she designed and taught two of the core courses from the beginning of the program in 2000. She created and directed Ethics Committees and Consultations (MSC3004Y) from 2000-2009 and Applied Learning in Bioethics/Practicum (MSC3008Y) from 2000-07. She also mentored junior faculty members in this Program, including her replacements for the Practicum course, and was a dedicated teacher who engaged and enabled her students, promoting teamwork and collaboration, and role modeled the virtues of patience, compassion, wisdom, fairness and excellent judgment.


In the JCB-administered education and training programs alone, Christine taught well over 100 of our MHSc in Bioethics students; taught or helped supervise dozens of the 120+ master's and doctoral students admitted to the Collaborative Program in Bioethics; and helped train over 35 Fellows in Clinical and Organizational Ethics (with direct rotation supervision of a dozen Fellows).


In addition to her absolutely vital contributions to the JCB, Christine's education role embraced many others across the U of T and Sick Kids communities, including undergraduate and graduate students, ethics interns, research assistants, post-doctoral fellows, and colleagues. She spearheaded the continuing education of staff, residents, and physicians—and educated members of the public through community talks, newsletter publications, and radio, television, and newspaper interviews.


Christine had also been an active member of 16 health care ethics committees at the University of Toronto, 58 health care ethics committees throughout her career at The Hospital for Sick Children and 32 health care ethics committees outside of the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children.


Contributions to Health Care Ethics in Canada and Internationally


Christine's leadership and influence extended far beyond the JCB and the U of T. She had the longest possible history of active involvement with the CBS/SBC—she was a member since its founding in 1988. Christine then became a Regional Advisory Council Member in 1990 and then became its chair for the 1996-97 year. In 1999, Christine was elected CBS/SBC President-Elect, served as President from 2000-2002 and as Past President in 2003. In addition, she had regularly taken on the demanding role of chairing and co-chairing CBS/SBC conferences and pre-conferences (1991-2, 1998, 2005-2007).


Christine’s career included education, practice, and scholarship activities—and an astounding level of service—not only throughout Canada but also in other parts of the world, including the US, Europe, and Taiwan.


Christine was an active member of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), including a member of the ASBH Pediatric Ethics Affinity Group Steering Committee. She was an Adjunct Professor at Union Institute and University Graduate College in Cincinnati, and also had an on-going relationship with the University of North Florida (Jacksonville) and its Wolfson Children's Hospital. Internationally, Christine has been an active member of International Conference on Clinical Ethics Consultation's (ICCEC) Scientific Committee since it was formed in 2002 and, in 2009, became a member of its Advisory Board. Her influence even extended to Taiwan where, in 2008, she was invited as a core faculty member for the 3-day intensive Winter Course on Clinical Bioethics.


The exceptional nature of Christine’s health care ethics career in education, practice, and service is also apparent in terms of scholarship. Some good examples of Christine’s scholarly impact over her career include her peer-reviewed Canadian Medical Association Journal article (with Kenny, Sidarous, and Rowell) "Involving Children in Medical Decisions," published in 1997. This article has been reprinted in three different bioethics volumes: Bioethics at the Bedside: A Clinicians Guide (ed. Singer), Biomedical Ethics: A Canadian Focus 2nd ed. (ed. Kluge), and Readings in Health Care Ethics (eds. Boetzkes and Waluchow). A revised version of this article was also published by Kenny, Downie, and Harrison in The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics (eds. Singer and Viens) in 2008, a highly respected book of international importance by virtue of its contributors, relevance, and audience. Dr. Harrison's leadership in pediatric health care ethics is further highlighted by two articles on truth-telling and fidelity in pediatric settings, both in books recently published by Cambridge—Pediatric Bioethics (ed. Miller, 2010) and Clinical Ethics in Pediatrics: A Case-Based Textbook (ed. Diekema, 2011).

Christine Harrison Paediatric Bioethics Collection


Christine retired (due to health reasons) at the end of January 2011 after a 20 year career in health care ethics. To celebrate her bioethics career, the JCB created its first education award. The objectives of the Christine Harrison Bioethics Education Award for Integration of Theory and Practice are to: (1) publically recognize individuals who demonstrate excellence in bioethics education, particularly the ability to highlight the necessary interrelationship of theory and practice; and (2) honor the superlative contributions of Dr. Christine Harrison as a teacher, mentor, and practicing bioethicist who conveys a rich appreciation for the importance of both theory and practice. The JCB also hosts the Christine Harrison Paediatric Bioethics Collection (pictured here) as part of the Philippa Harris Bioethics Library at 155 College St. The collection was purchased in 2013 from donations collected from the JCB community upon Christine Harrison's retirement.


Christine's "reach" over her career as a health care ethicist is clearly both broad and deep. It was always an honor and a joy to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from her over much of her career. She was an essential member of our JCB community and provided invaluable, ongoing support and inspiration to countless bioethicists, faculty members, administrators, fellows, and students, ourselves included.


Christine Harrison Paediatric Bioethics CollectionChristine's Bioethics Department at the Hospital for Sick Children has earned tremendously high regard as a leading program nationally and internationally; and she, herself, was one of the best known and most respected members of the Joint Centre for Bioethics and the Canadian Bioethics Society alike. Her output, influence, and leadership—locally, provincially, nationally, and internationally—was truly exemplary. She was a Canadian leader who achieved wide and deep engagement in, and integration of, bioethics teaching, practice, scholarship, and service.


In 2011, Christine received the Canadian Bioethics Society's Lifetime Achievement Award web link for her leadership in shaping the field of health-care ethics in Canada.


SickKids Bioethics Week (November 9-13, 2015)

SickKids will be hosting the Christine Harrison Lecture in Paediatric Bioethics as part of their Bioethics Week activities (November 9-13). Full schedule of events pdf link

Wednesday, November 11
Christine Harrison Lecture in Paediatric Bioethics, Paediatric Grand Rounds
9 - 10 am, Daniels Hollywood Theatre
Tracheostomies and Assisted Ventilation in Children with Profound Disabilities: Navigating Family and Professional Values
Benjamin Wilfond, MD
Professor and Chief, Division of Bioethics
Professor, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Department of Pediatrics
Adjunct Professor, Department of Bioethics and Humanities
University of Washington School of Medicine


SickKids Bioethics Grand Rounds - October 6, 2015

On October 6th, SickKids Bioethics Grand Rounds was on Christine Harrison - Life and Legacy in Paediatric Bioethics. The event was recorded and if you wish to watch the presentation, please login using the credentials below.

Webcast Link: http://webcast.otn.ca/mywebcast?id=46328940 web link
Username: bioethicsgrounds
Password: ethics