Que­bec coro­ner says Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses had right to refuse blood trans­fu­sions

Truro Daily News - - Canada - MON­TREAL


Any­one has the right to refuse a blood trans­fu­sion, even if it means cer­tain death, says a Que­bec coro­ner who stud­ied the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the deaths of two Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses who had re­cently given birth.

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses be­lieve in­gest­ing blood goes against their be­liefs and that they should not ac­cept trans­fu­sions or do­nate their own blood.

“Ev­ery per­son in Que­bec has this free­dom of choice,” coro­ner Luc Malouin said in his re­port, which was made public Tues­day.

“This free­dom has been ex­er­cised here in ac­cor­dance with the rules of law. It is up to ev­ery­one to make their choices and to fully as­sume the con­se­quences.”

Eloise Dupuis, 27, of Ste-Mar­guerite died on Oct. 12, 2016, of mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure re­sult­ing from hem­or­rhagic shock just seven days after giv­ing birth to her first child.

She had been trans­ferred to hos­pi­tal in Le­vis from a birthing cen­tre after com­pli­ca­tions, but had said from the start she would refuse blood prod­ucts or trans­fu­sions.

A note in her med­i­cal file said she told med­i­cal staff she would pre­fer to die rather than re­ceive blood prod­ucts.

Malouin’s re­port noted nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions over sev­eral days when doc­tors tried to get Dupuis or her fam­ily to sign off on a trans­fu­sion as her health de­te­ri­o­rated and each at­tempt was re­buffed on the ba­sis of re­li­gious prin­ci­ples.

“The only med­i­cal so­lu­tion that ex­isted for Ms. Dupuis in or­der to re­cover her health was to re­ceive blood, but she al­ways re­fused to do so,” Malouin wrote.

Malouin said no med­i­ca­tion or ar­ti­fi­cial blood prod­uct ex­ists that is ap­proved by Cana­dian or Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties and that can re­place nat­u­ral blood.

“Even in­ter­na­tion­ally, the re­search into this sub­ject is at an ex­per­i­men­tal stage,” Malouin wrote. “At this time, only a blood trans­fu­sion can com­pen­sate for se­vere blood loss.”

Malouin also found there was no re­li­gious in­flu­ence from Je­ho­vah of­fi­cials in Dupuis’ case as had been al­leged by some of her rel­a­tives.

The coro­ner also looked at the case of Mir­lande Cadet, 46, of Re­pentigny, who died of res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure on Oct. 3, 2016, at St. Mary’s Hos­pi­tal in Mon­treal.

She was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal and did re­ceive a blood trans­fu­sion when her hus­band even­tu­ally con­sented sev­eral hours after her health had be­gun to de­te­ri­o­rate fol­low­ing a cae­sarean sec­tion.

Cadet had noted upon her hos­pi­tal­iza­tion she would refuse blood trans­fu­sions and her hus­band ini­tially main­tained that po­si­tion un­til her par­ents con­vinced him she needed the trans­fu­sion.

She had un­der­ly­ing health is­sues and Malouin con­cluded it was un­clear if a de­lay in the trans­fu­sion pro­ce­dure led to her death just two days after her ad­mis­sion.

In no case was med­i­cal staff to blame, Maoulin said, adding they had no other choice but to re­spect a pa­tient’s wishes.

The Que­bec Civil Code stip­u­lates that an adult, who is of sound mind and well in­formed, can ac­cept or refuse med­i­cal treat­ment.

Malouin added that ev­ery­one has the right to free­dom of con­science and re­li­gion un­der the Char­ter of Hu­man Rights and Free­doms.

The coro­ner rec­om­mended that hos­pi­tals and doc­tors draft a spe­cific treat­ment plan for pa­tients likely to refuse blood trans­fu­sions be­fore a pro­ce­dure, adding that ev­ery minute counts.

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