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Family calls for more palliative care after Laval hospital sent their dying mother home

WATCH: Caroline Dupuis’ mother died in June, just hours after receiving an injection and being released from a Laval hospital. Anne Leclair reports.

A devastated family is speaking out about the high cost of being refused palliative care.

Their mother died in June, just hours after being released from a Laval hospital, despite the family’s pleas to keep her.

They were told there were no palliative care beds available, they say, but one medical malpractice lawyer claims the hospital broke the law by sending her home.

“The problem is that they offered nothing and they sent her home where she died,” said lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard.

“If they had no beds available at that time, they had to keep that patient in the emergency room.”

It’s been six months since their mother’s death, but Caroline and Nancy Dupuis are still having trouble sleeping and say the last moments of their mothers’ life play over and over in their minds.

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READ MORE: Palliative care patients, doctors, caregivers in Quebec desperate for more home care services

“She had a terminal illness, which is fine, it’s the way that it happened,” said Caroline Dupuis. “They stole her last moments with us.”

Seventy-two-year-old Theresa Malo’s health had been failing for weeks before she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Despite numerous requests to have her hospitalized at the Cité-de-la-Santé in Laval, her daughters say she was systematically sent home to suffer.

“They told us that for budgetary reasons they had no [palliative care] beds,” said Caroline Dupuis.

On her last visit to the emergency room, Malo refused chemotherapy and was given an injection for pain before being discharged. According to her daughters, she never woke up and died within hours of leaving the hospital.

“She was clearly in a coma with her hands and feet blue. How can no one see that?” said Caroline Dupuis.

The fight over access to end-of-life care in Quebec
The fight over access to end-of-life care in Quebec

Malo’s arm was badly injured when she was leaving the hospital, becoming stuck in the wheelchair when she was placed into a taxi while unconscious.

Her family has filed complaints with the hospital, which has since launched an investigation.

“It is important to know that when an undesirable event occurs, the CISSS de Laval automatically initiates an investigation,” said Pierre-Yves Séguin from the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de Laval.

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“The goal is to list facts in order to understand what happened, to find any irregularities, to identify possible improvements and therefore, [and] to keep this kind of event from happening again.”

READ MORE: Laval police launch criminal investigation after patient dies in hospital

“Unfortunately this is not an isolated case,” said Menard, who claims this case perfectly illustrates the need for more palliative care in the community.

Currently, despite having the right to die at home, most Quebecers are denied that choice due to ongoing negotiations between the federation of physicians and the government.

“Presently, it’s a free-for-all,” he said. “This [palliative care] is not organized sufficiently.”

While the family waits for answers from the hospital and considers taking legal action, the hope is that others aren’t turned away and forced to die at home without medical care.

Theresa Malo and her daughter Caroline Dupuis
Theresa Malo and her daughter Caroline Dupuis Caroline Dupuis

 

“We took our mom that day to the safest place,” said Nancy Dupuis.

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“The hospital was the safest place to bring her and we still left there with a tragedy that should not have happened.”