Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Kindness and Compassion: Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin

Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin. Ottawa Fertility Specialist. My father. Recently the subject of outrageous claims and innuendo in a civil suit that has been widely reported in the national media.

When asked by my daughter for a school report who I mosted admired, I considered a variety of people such as Gandhi, Mandela, but chose my father. Why did I choose him, even though it might seem cloying to decide on one's own father?

Kindness and compassion.

My father is simply the most kind and compassionate person that I know. He is this way with his patients -- his speciality has been women's health and infertility -- and he is this way with his many friends and with our family.

How we are and how we act as invidividuals makes each of our worlds. He makes his world to be one of kindness, understanding, and compassion.

There are a vast number of people both in his professional and personal life that he has helped, supported, cooked for, made comfortable, looked after, looked out for, done a thousand little extra things for, performed a myriad of little kindnesses for, and empowered with his generosity of spirit and understanding.

No one is without complexity -- these many complexities make us human, complexity is what being human is -- however, when I look at the kind of generous, moral, ethical, and humane world that my father has created, I am inspired. The world may not be perfect, but it can be infused with kindness and compassion.

He has always deeply believed in understanding and valuing who people are, who they want to be, and what lives they have a right to live. He has also demonstrated a rigorous and exacting approach to science, medicine, research, and ethics in his professional life.

He has demonstrated extraordinary moral courage in standing up for his patients' rights and for advocating what is right, sometimes quietly in his actions and his medical practice, sometimes publically. These actions are also a form of kindness and compassion.

I don't know what else is in the media or on the internet about my father, Dr. Norman Barwin, but I know the values that he lives by, and what he values. These will not change, no matter what is said or claimed.

23 comments:

benita said...

I have known your father for approximately 30 years. He has always been supportive and helpful. We work together on the
CICF and see each other with friends.He has been involved in many good projects.It is a shame that our reporters decide to publish bad things about people without looking at who they really are.
Benita

sbenzvy said...

I have met a lot of people in my life but rarely have I met people like Norman and Myrna. They are compassionate and warm, loving and intelligent. They have at various times in my life provided help and advice and solutions that I would not have found without them. Whatever unfortunate circumstance have led to this situation nothing can shake my profound belief that Norman is a wonderful human being and that it is my privilege to know him.
Shereen Benzvy Miller

Anonymous said...
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Cara said...

I can't say enough positive things about your Dad.

He was referred to me by my doctor in Toronto after I had IVF for post operation monitoring.\ here in Ottawa.

I had some spotting that he diagnosed as a sub chronic hematoma via ultrasound and later that same afternoon at the end of his day he called to see how I was doing. Amazing!

He called me today to give me test results that all were great result...doctors don't do that these days unless it bad news. Not to mention that I have moving on from his care to my OB but HE called me with the results. I had noticed some spotting this afternoon when I got home at 5pm and after calling my new OB to get an office closed message. My husband told me to call Dr Barwin just in case. At 5pm on a long weekend Thursday to ease my mind he kept his office open until 6pm. My babies are good and I am feeling better going into this long weekend.

I can't sing his praises loud enough. Both my husband and I are grateful for his kindness and compassion.

Your lucky to have him for a Dad...

gary barwin said...

Thank-you for your kind comments. I am indeed lucky to have him as a father. I am glad that you (and your babies) are well.

Greg Hannah said...

We first met your dad when we moved from Montreal with a referral from my wife's obgyn. Norman was testing a new type of contraceptive plugs, for the fallopian tubes, that did not include any hormone or few hormones. Over the years we progressed from that to having our two sons, one in the old General in 79 and one in the new General in 81. I will always remember and appreciate your father always including me in the monthly visits and treating us kids (in our mid 20's) like adults. His professionalism and support during both births was amazing and I do recall thinking at about 2AM that this guy has been here since yesterday at 7AM to be with us. Thank you for giving him up so much to others. Years later I met your mom when I was at CPC and she was at SHL...a truly classy lady.
Cheers.

gary barwin said...

Thanks, Greg. It's very gratifying to hear such lovely stories about my father. Needless to say, I have many remarkable stories of his kindness and dedication at home.

Anonymous said...

I have never met anyone like Dr. Barwin. He "saved" me physically, and emotionally. I love him.

S.A. Lefebvre said...

I love Dr. Barwin. He truly is the best in his field. He has helped me in so many ways that other doctors were clueless in. And his warmth and compassion make him the pure soul he is.

Those parasites trying to make money off of him are the ones we should feel sorry for...

Amy (and Genevieve) Cheff said...

Your father gave us our babies and we are eternally grateful. He is, without a doubt, the most caring and compassionate doctor we have ever had, and we feel blessed to have found him. We are deeply saddened at the unfortunate media exposure and accusations. We stand behind our high opinions of him and his work. We are even more saddened that he will not be practicing anymore when we are ready for our next addition. Thank you for this piece about your father. It was beautiful and a joy to read.

Anonymous said...

I currently live in the states but am from Northern Ireland. Norman barwin was my mum and dads doctor many many years ago in Northern Ireland. I have grown up knowing stories about this amazing man who helped my parents out through the toughest time in their lives. They were unable to have children and your father who was a pioneer of fertility treatment at that time in Ireland helped them try to realise their dream. When it was realised that having biological children was not an option you father didn't walk away. He helped them to adopt my brother and then me. We have grown up in an amazing home with the best parents any child or now adult could wish for. All this is thanks to the efforts of your father seeing something special in my mum and dad and not giving up when he couldn't help them medically. We were sad to read that he is having a tough time and my family wanted to make sure that your dad knows that he made a huge difference in our lives and has support from us.

Anonymous said...

He was a good guy .. too bad he screwed up so bad. He will be missed in the medical community. I guess it's sort of like taking away driver's licenses from senior citizens once they lose their ability to drive safely. They can be really nice people but their incompetence can kill people.

gary barwin said...

Actually, "Anonymous," there were some claims. There aren't any now. It's easy to make claims, but claims need actual evidence.

Taashii said...

The medical community won't have to miss him because he's still around!

I for one am thankful- as a new patient I already feel I made the best choice and can't wait to start my journey in starting a family with Dr Barwin at the helm.

You're very lucky to have him as your father. :)

Anonymous said...

gary barwin : admirable that you support your father but if all of these claims are unfounded, then why is your father facing a discipline hearing in 2013 for conduct that is considered disgraceful in his profession? and incompetent.

according to a recent article, the claims are resolved. could be there was much "evidence". we won't know until the hearing.

gary barwin said...



'Anonymous': I can't comment on the current issue or about my father. However, I can say that I believe in the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty.' And, generally, though people can claim whatever they want in a civil suit, I wish that the media would hold off and wait for due process or evidence to be produced. I don't believe in judging people by the concept of where there is smoke there must be fire. And creating a lot of smoke can be an effective strategy to bully people.

Mitchell Beer said...

We've just posted the following note in the comments section below the recent CBC News report. I found your blog while searching for your dad's email address -- because we want to make sure he receives it! Please give him our very best. - Mitchell Beer and Karen Irving. Ottawa
=+=+=+=+=

This is an incredibly sad moment, but it’s not a “gotcha” moment.

We met Norman Barwin in 1993. We’d despaired of having a second child, or of finding a fertility specialist in Ottawa who would treat us as people, not widgets in a health specialty funding machine. We soon learned that past practitioners had misdiagnosed our problem, mostly because they couldn’t or wouldn't take the time to listen carefully. Our daughter was born in 1994, and to this day, we know we have Norm to thank for that.

Along the way, we learned that Norm Barwin was not just a smart, committed physician. He’s also one of the most humane people we’ve ever met. One day, he seemed shaken when we saw him at his clinic, and explained that he’d narrowly averted a serious accident at a traffic light. Another car was approaching at high speed and was about to plow into his vehicle. Rather protecting himself, he pulled the emergency brake as hard as he could—not for his own sake, but to avoid being driven into the pedestrians in the intersection. We’re not sure either of us would have had the presence of mind to read the situation and react the way he did. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been considered at fault, but the impact would have been far more tragic than anything that may have happened in his practice.

We hope this won’t come as a shock, but we both know we make mistakes in our jobs every day. We’re both lucky to work in professions where the results of those mistakes are rarely as visible or permanent as the allegations we’re hearing from Norm’s practice. But that doesn’t take away from his long history as a caring, committed and, yes, incredibly competent resource to this community.

Anyone in this discussion who has never made a mistake should feel free to continue trashing Dr. Barwin.

gary barwin said...

Thanks very much for your kind, considerate, and thoughtful comments. I appreciate it.

Sadly, one of the things about these kinds of processes, is that people are often forced to agree to agreements in order to avoid a media nightmare even though no evidence has ever been or is ever produced. Allegations which are reported in the media, in fact, fuel more media and nastiness on the internet, and influences decisions to settle things quietly.

Not an Enemy said...

Gary,

As previously stated, it is in fact very endearing that you support your father so heartily and with such steadfastness. Such loyalty is rarely seen these days.

But the same poster made a very vaild point; incompetence. I don't doubt that your father has made many many many lives greater and better just by being who he is.

Unfortuently though it isn't his character that is in question. From what I've read, no one is saying that your father is a monster or even that he did the things that he has done intentially. He is being accused of supposedly very seriously affecting people's lives in such a very private and drastic way. That isn't something that you can simply over look.

I understand that you feel protective of him because he does indeed seem like such a sweet kind man. You have to look at this situation from another perspective.

I found out about all of this because I was about to be refered to him for another matter entirely. I was doing some research on the doctor, as very shortly I'm sure I would be very well acquainted, when I found a news article online simply outlining the situation.

As a potential future patient of this man, it makes me more than a little cautious. What he is being accused of is unavoidable. He didn't just give someone the wrong medication, but he potentially gave someone the wrong child. Not only that, but this woman's husband had testicular cance I read, which means that more than likely, this was they're last chance at having children. So now they find out that their daughter has some random strangers genes, and their is no one to blame but your father due to the circumstances surrounding the conception; surrogacy.

It happens to everyone at somepoint or another in their career. You forget to turn of a machine, forget to send a memo before a deadline, and even MD's have mal practice suits. It's just something that makes people not want to take that risk. That maybe this time it'll be my eggs, my body, my child that suffers the consiquences of this mans mistake.

In conclusion, I have emense sympathy and compassion for your father. I hope that everything comes back and he is aquited of all charges. I hope that his practice suffers little from what has happened. In the mean time however, I'm not going to risk my body and my furture on someone being accused of such things simply because he's "Such a great man". And remember, even Gandhi made mistakes.

PS:

I understand you probably won't let this be seen in your comments, but I hope that it brings you a sense of peace and resolve.

gary barwin said...

"Not an Enemy",

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and perspective.

I'd like to reiterate my last comment:

"Sadly, one of the things about these kinds of processes, is that people are often forced to agree to agreements in order to avoid a media nightmare even though ***no evidence has ever been or is ever produced.*** Allegations which are reported in the media, in fact, fuel more media and nastiness on the internet, and influences decisions to settle things quietly."

And of course -- and it is a perspective that my father would certainly agree, indeed he has spent a career advocating for -- women have the right to be in active control of their own health, bodies, and treatment. So you have to do what you feel is right for you.

Again, thanks for the thoughtful comments.

Gary

larocquemonicue@hotmail.com said...

Dear Gary:

Best of Luck! on Thursday.
Your father has been and will remain my gynecologist for as long as I can have him. I will always remember him for his incredible ability to deal with you either as a professional or as a patient, with the greatest respect and caring I have encountered in a physician. I asked him once if he would teach Ethics to Medical students and the Medical professionals of the day because of the incredible sense of Ethics I found your father poscessed. Your dad is the best and I wish all your family well through this undeserved ordeal.

Anonymous said...

What hasn't been said and really needs to is that, Dr. Barwin is a pioneer in social justice and equality. Dr. Barwin helped women become parents when other clinics were closing their doors. Let's be honest here, no one was rushing to help single-women and lesbians to have children, in fact quite the opposite, for many women in Ottawa, Dr. Barwin was the only physician willing and more importantly wanting to help us have babies.

So we all lined up in the 100s at Dr. Barwin's door because we knew that his commitment to helping us have families was done with generous spirit and compassion. When I think of the times when we met him on a Saturday or Sunday, Christmas morning... it happened because he knew our fertility windows were brief and he wanted us to have our best shot at pregnancy. When I think of what an inconvenience that must have been for him - he never made us feel that it was - we knew that his care was really 24/7.
Whie my partner in the end went through IVF, when we had a late night emergency at the hospital 10 weeks into a pregnancy with twins, he met us the next morning at 5:30 a.m. to do an ultrasound and check our babies to reassure us that they were ok. In fact when we found out we were finally pregnant after 3 years of both of us trying, it was a 5:30 garbled telephone call from Dr. Barwin sharing the good news with us since copies of the blood tests had gone to him. What probably describes him best is that he was giving us the HGH levels and my partner interrupted and said “Dr. Barwin, are you saying we are we pregnant" and he gleefully said yes!

Now almost 5 years later, we are blessed moms to the most beautiful girls and I am grateful and thankful to Dr. Barwin - because in the end, for us - he kept our hopes high, never let us give up and knew how much we wanted to be parents. His commitment to help us have that family never wavered and this says something about the person that he is. Our thoughts are with him.