OTTAWA (CCN) — A Catholic woman has filed a complaint with a Quebec health agency alleging that her husband was denied antibiotics to treat a bladder infection after doctors determined it was better to let him die because he had cancer.
“Herman’s greatest wish was to survive another year in order to watch his daughters graduate from college and university,” said Mary Lucille Durocher in a complaint filed July 31.
Her complaint alleges that a hospital doctor refused to treat her husband’s infection because he “knew Herman had cancer in the bone and it was spreading to the liver, therefore it was better to let him die from the infection in a week or 10 days than to allow him to live for a year or more and suffer in the final stages of the cancer.”
“These were definitely not mine or Herman’s wishes and we very clearly indicated this to the doctor,” says her complaint.
Herman Morin, 65, was admitted to hospital on June 12 and died four days later.
The complaint suggests the medical decision was “influenced” by Quebec’s Bill 52, which legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who meet certain conditions.
“This is a case where it appears the tenets of Bill 52 may have influenced the actions of some of the medical practitioners involved, although its protocols were not respected,” reads the complaint, filed with the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de l’Outaouais.
According to a priest from the Pembroke diocese, which straddles Ontario and Quebec, this is the third case he is aware of involving a patient being refused treatment for bladder infections because of cancer or old age. In two cases, the patients died, said Rev. Tim Moyle. In the other case, the family was able to force doctors to treat their family member.
“Doctors in general possess a healthy sense of entitlement,” said Moyle. “Giving them the power of life and death, as the euthanasia law does, has only made this situation worse.”
In her complaint, Durocher says her husband was wearing a wristband to indicate an allergy to the opioid pain medication Dilaudid. She learned that not only was her husband being denied treatment for his bladder infection, but that he was receiving Dilaudid, which caused vomiting and made him unable to eat or drink.
The Dilaudid was stopped and, says Durocher’s complaint, replaced with morphine “at a rate 15 times greater than he had been receiving at home.”
In an interview, Durocher said she thought she had a week to find a way to force the hospital to treat the bladder infection, perhaps through obtaining a lawyer’s letter, but the next time she came to the hospital, “it was too late.”
A CISSS spokesperson said she could not comment on the case for reasons of confidentiality.
But the CISSS has no policy “which forbids a doctor to prescribe any type of medication to his patient,” said Geneviève Côté in an email statement. “It is up to the doctor to determine what the best treatment is for his patient.”
She said a patient is entitled to seek a second medical opinion and address concerns to the Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner of the CISSS de l’Outaouais and the Collège des médecins du Québec, which “has the legal mandate to oversee and improve medical practice in order to protect the public and improve the health of Quebecers.”
Durocher’s complaint will go to a medical examiner, who will investigate.