Quebec woman who died in worst-hit long-term care home given end-of-life care without proper consent, son says

Jean-Pierre Daubois had no idea his mother was about to die when he visited her at the Sainte-Dorothée long-term care home in Laval in April 2020, he told a coroner's inquest Thursday. 

94-year-old woman administered cocktail of sedatives and painkillers after choking on a pill, son testifies

Jean-Pierre Daubois with his mother, Anna José Maquet, at the Sainte-Dorothée care home in Laval. Manquet died April 3, 2020 at the age of 94. (Submitted by Jean-Pierre Daubois)

Jean-Pierre Daubois had no idea his mother was about to die when he visited her at the Sainte-Dorothée long-term care home in Laval in April 2020, he told a coroner's inquiry Thursday. 

Daubois says workers at the home did not make it clear to him that the painkillers and sedatives they were giving his 94-year-old mother, amid a growing outbreak at the home early in the first wave, could lead to her death.

Daubois was testifying at the coroner's inquiry into deaths at Quebec's seniors' residences in the first wave, led by Géhane Kamel.

"I thought she was just in a comatose state because of the morphine, but that she would come out and be OK," Daubois said in emotional testimony at the Laval courthouse.

Sainte-Dorothée is one of the public long-term care homes, known as CHSLDs in Quebec, being looked at during the public inquiry. A total of 211 residents contracted the virus there; 101 died and 173 employees were infected.

Six CHSLDs and one private residence have been selected to be examined by Kamel. Half of the COVID-19 deaths in Quebec's first wave occurred in seniors' residences. 

Kamel has said the inquiry's goal is not to determine guilt, but to come up with recommendations to prevent future crises.

A funeral home worker removes a body from the CHSLD Sainte-Dorothée in Laval during the first wave. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

This week, the inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding the death on April 3, 2020 of Daubois's mother, Anna José Maquet. 

Wednesday, the inquiry heard that staff at the home were forbidden from transferring residents to hospital, despite there being no oxygen concentrators available for patients in respiratory distress. 

Instead, a nurse told the inquest, she and her colleagues were given a protocol to follow, which involved administering morphine and lorazepam, commonly known as Ativan, to calm the patients down. 

Those patients usually ended up dying, the nurse said. Maquet was one of them.

'They basically condemned her to death'

Thursday, Daubois told the inquiry that nurses seem to have decided to administer the protocol to his mother after she choked on a pill. It remains unclear if Maquet ever contracted the virus, despite a growing number of cases at the residence at the time.

The result of a COVID-19 test administered to Maquet were never obtained. Daubois says he was told after she died that it was because her test had been lost. The document supposed to have the result said the test had been cancelled. 

"Within two hours, they basically condemned her to death and they didn't do anything — nothing — to save her," Daubois told the inquest, his voice rising. 

"They gave her morphine and left her."

"I agreed not to send her to the hospital because I was told it could cause a senior like her distress, and there could be COVID circulating at the hospitals," Daubois said. 

"Had I known what I know now, my answer would have been very different."

Daubois's testimony was followed by two doctors, who had been in charge of taking infection control decisions for the Laval health board. 

Their testimony revealed how testing in the province was, for weeks, limited to people who presented symptoms and had travelled. 

They also testified about how slowly government directions were updated, despite developing knowledge of the virus. 

"One of the main issues was that we didn't know how much asymptomatic cases could contribute to the virus's spread," said Dr. Olivier Haeck, the head of infection control for the Laval health board, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de Laval

Haeck, who lobbied for mass testing at the home on April 3, testified that the teams conducting the tests said it would be too complicated to test staff as well.

Dr. Maude Saint-Jean, who was assisting Haeck at the time, told the inquest the red zone at the home appeared up to code when she visited it on March 27. 

Saint-Jean admitted there should have been running water, but that her job was more to ascertain whether the zone was properly set up to prevent the virus from spreading than whether patients would be properly cared for. 

Within days, though, Saint-Jean testified there was no longer a use for a red zone at Sainte-Dorothée. COVID-19 had spread throughout.