Friends, family gather to remember Jehovah's Witness who died after giving birth

Family and friends of 26-year-old Éloïse Dupuis gathered to remember a young woman whose death has sparked a movement.

Memorial celebrates life of Éloïse Dupuis, whose death is now focus of coroner's investigation

People gathered at a memorial for Éloïse Dupuis, 26, who died from complications related to blood loss six days after giving birth to her first child by C-section. (Stephen Smith/CBC)

Family and friends of 26-year-old Éloïse Dupuis gathered Saturday to remember a young woman whose death has sparked a movement.

The Laval event had all the features of a memorial with its candles, tributes, songs and photos. Behind it all, however, was an unmistakable sense of political urgency.

Dupuis's aunt Manon Boyer wants Quebec's Civil Code amended to prevent a further tragedy like the death of her Jehovah's Witness niece. She repeated that call on Saturday, as did others in attendance.

Dupuis died in October shortly after giving birth to her first child by ceaesarian section. Complications led to a hemorrhage, but the new mother refused a blood transfusion in accordance with the church's policy against them.

Suzanne Dupuis and Manon Boyer, aunts of Éloïse Dupuis, want Quebec's Civil Code changed to give doctors the right to administer life-saving treatment in situations where free and informed consent is in doubt. (CBC)

That's a decision that many who knew her can't fathom, and one they worry was made under pressure from other members of her Jehovah's Witness community.

"We need to adjust our thinking on what constitutes free and informed consent," Boyer said Saturday. 

"She couldn't wait to meet her son, she was so impatient, so full of love for him, and I'm certain she never would have accepted leaving him — that's why we're here today," said another aunt, Suzanne Dupuis.

"The law has to change — we can't lose our children like this, our grandchildren, our nieces. And this is just the tip of the iceberg," she said.

Coroner, police investigating, MNAs call for inquiry

Their concerns have now been taken up by two Coalition Avenir Québec MNAs, Simon Jolin-Barrette and Lise Lavallée, who want a parliamentary committee to look into the issue. 

A Quebec coroner is already investigating Dupuis's death and that of another Jehovah's Witness woman, Mirlande Cadet, to determine if their refusal of blood met legal and medical standards for free and informed consent.

Police in Lévis, where Dupuis died in hospital, are also investigating her death after Boyer lodged a complaint about the alleged behaviour of a Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committee at the hospital.

"We want Éloï​se to be the last to die in such circumstances, and we won't stop," Boyer said.

Éloïse Dupuis used to babysit Sabrina Zélézen and her sisters, and Zélézen said she couldn't wait to have children of her own. (Stephen Smith / CBC)

Sabrina Zélézen and her two sisters arrived at the hospital prior to Dupuis's death hoping to see the friend who used to babysit them as triplets.

"We weren't allowed to see her because we weren't Jehovah's Witnesses... the nurses want to let us in to see her, but not the family," Zélézen told CBC News.

"We were only allowed in to see her after she had died."

 Zélézen said she has difficulty believing her friend willingly opted to die rather than accept blood.

"Her dream was to have children," she said. "She was passionate about life."

The memorial was organized to give Dupuis's non-Jehovah's Witness family members an opportunity to celebrate her life. Boyer said they weren't invited to Dupuis's Jehovah's Witness-only funeral, which was held Nov. 19.

"We weren't told she went into labour, that there were problems, that she died. We weren't told about the funeral. We were never informed," Boyer said. 

"She was stolen from us in October, I dare say... and this is a chance to bid her a proper farewell."


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