Coroner to investigate death of Jehovah’s Witness following childbirth

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The Quebec coroner’s office is investigating the death of a 27-year-old woman who died following a difficult childbirth last week.

Éloïse Dupuis, a Jehovah’s Witness, died in a hospital in Lévis on Oct. 12, six days after giving birth to her son. The infant, named Liam, survived the ordeal.

A spokesperson for the coroner’s office said she couldn’t confirm whether Dupuis had refused a blood transfusion after a complicated delivery.

“The coroner is just starting his investigation, so we can’t make any comments,” Chloe Bernier-Caron said.

Jehovah’s Witnesses often refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons, even when lives are in danger. 

Cassandra Zélézen, a childhood friend of Dupuis, said Dupuis was to deliver her baby at a birthing centre, but was transferred to the hospital following complications. After a caesarean section, there were more complications and Dupuis had to have her uterus removed, she said. During the operation, Dupuis lost blood and required a blood transfusion, but didn’t have one, probably for religious reasons, said Zélézen, who had been in touch with her friend recently by text but hasn’t seen her for about a year.

“She had a card saying she wouldn’t have a blood transfusion,” her friend recalled. “But that was imposed on her when she was young.”

Zélézen said she arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes before her friend died, but her parents refused to allow her to see their daughter.

“Her mother was crying, she couldn’t understand why she was dying,” she said. “She had an infection that likely killed her, but if she had had a blood transfusion, her body would have been stronger.”

She said she is saddened by her friend’s death and can’t understand the strength of her friend’s religious beliefs.

 “It’s not normal that you have a baby at 27 and then die,” she said. “She was really looking forward to having a baby. It was her biggest dream.”

Coroner Luc Malouin will study the circumstances surrounding the young woman’s death and decide whether the proper protocols were followed. A hospital spokesperson said she could not comment on Dupuis’s death because of privacy rules.

Adult patients are permitted to refuse medical treatment in hospitals providing they notify medical staff of their decision. 

kwilton@postmedia.com