Laval Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital | Suspicious death in the operating room

Police are investigating murder

Henri Ouellette-Vézina

Henri Ouellette-Vézina

“Euthanasia”. This is how several upset staff members described the death of an 84-year-old man in an operating room where there was discord, at the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital, in Laval, in 2019. The shock was such that an official of the establishment alerted the police, who have since been carrying out a murder investigation, learned Press.

At the time, very little information had filtered out about this case, which led to the resignation of an anesthesiologist. Two nurses who took part in the operation said they were upset by it. You have to go back to October 31, 2019 to fully understand. That day, an octogenarian whose identity has not been revealed goes to the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval for stomach aches. A bowel obstruction requiring surgery is diagnosed.

A general surgeon and an anesthesiologist then meet with the patient to explain the risks associated with the operation. The man consents to the level of care “Objective B: prolong life through limited care”, saying that he does not want “there to be cardiopulmonary resuscitation or emergency intubation”.

According to Superior Court documents consulted by Press, the operation begins around 2 a.m., on the night of 1is November. The patient is sedated. During the operation, which lasts about two hours, the surgeon discovers “necrosis in large segments of his small intestine”. “Considering the extent of the operative findings and the wishes expressed by the patient”, he then decides to join his family.

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Over the phone, the doctor explained to the patient’s niece – who acted as an emergency contact – that “continuing the operation would require the patient to have a bag” and be hospitalized for a prolonged period. The two then decide to “conclude the operation and offer palliative treatment” to the patient.

Back in the operating room, the surgeon “closes the patient’s abdominal wall” and confirms to his anesthetist colleague “that there is no expected survival of the patient”. It was then that a debate arose between the anesthesiologist and nurses. The first calls into question “the usefulness of finding a room for the patient when he could be taken directly to the morgue”, repeating that the man “has no one to accompany him” in palliative care. A nurse retorts, however, that the patient has a daughter, and that it is “wrong to claim that he has no family”.

Despite everything, the anesthesiologist chooses to give the patient an injection and disconnect him from the ventilator at around 4:45 a.m.

At the time of the injection, the nurse claims to have “said a few times that this is not the procedure to follow and that the patient must be returned upstairs to die there with dignity”. Another nurse presents, moreover, “endorses” the words of her colleague.

The man’s asystole, that is to say the stop of his heartbeats, is finally noticed around 5:04 am The anesthesiologist leaves the room “without filling out the death certificate”, but advises the surgeon – who had left after the ‘operation – time of death. A death certificate is then filled out, then the patient is transferred to the emergency room at 5:35 a.m., before a family member arrives there a little after 7 a.m.

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Consensus on “euthanasia”

The next day, the two nurses who took part in the operation informed the hospital’s director of professional care, Dr.r Alain Turcotte, that they have been “turned upside down by the circumstances of the death” and experience “discomfort linked to the actions” of the anesthetist.

Five days later, on November 6, 2019, Mr. Turcotte received a “written report from the nurses” and noted “what seemed to him to be euthanasia”.

The Dr Turcotte then transmits the information to Dr Martin Chénier, president of the hospital’s council of physicians, who also agrees “that it seems to be euthanasia”. This “is not part of a process of medical aid in dying”, it is also specified.

“Together, they apply to the Syndic of the College of Physicians and receive a notice that it appears to be euthanasia,” read the court documents. The Dr Shortly after, Turcotte proceeded to “emergency withdrawal” of the anesthesiologist’s privileges at the hospital. He then concludes that his actions “must be reported to the police”. An investigation is opened in the following days.

On November 11, the anesthesiologist proposes through the voice of his lawyer to resign under “certain conditions”, in particular to erase from his personal file “all traces of this event”. The suggestion is’ rejected by the Dr Turcotte ”, but the anesthesiologist still decides to resign.

The legal context

Behind this case hides a real showdown that has occurred in recent months between the Syndic of the College of Physicians and the Laval Police Department. The police wish to have access to the disciplinary investigation file and to the evidence to conduct their investigation. It is stalling because of this legal battle, can we read in the documents made public Thursday.

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A privilege was claimed by the anesthesiologist and the trustee, so that the police could not consult the disciplinary file, even if they obtained a search warrant allowing them to seize it. This is because under the law, a professional has the obligation to collaborate in an investigation of his discipline committee, but obtaining a privilege allows him to remain silent and not to meet the police. .

The police are currently trying to get their side of the story by consulting the statement they provided to the trustee. So far, police have spoken to most of the responders who were in the operating room on the night of 1is November 2019, except this anesthesiologist.

The anesthesiologist tried unsuccessfully to obtain a publication ban on the factual background of this case. A temporary 30-day publication ban was granted to him, however, to allow him to exercise his rights in the Supreme Court. But she then asked for a second deadline, which was refused to her on Thursday morning, which allows Press to distribute these documents without revealing the identity of the people involved.

The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions, for his part, filed a motion to have the question of privilege decided before the Superior Court. The debate on claiming this privilege is scheduled for next fall.