New Brunswick

Woman learns of miscarriage after jail denies her ultrasound

A woman who was pregnant while in the Miramichi women's jail said she was denied access to a doctor after she started to bleed and later learned she lost her baby.

Julie Arseneau says she was refused access to a doctor when she started bleeding at jail

Julie Arseneau was pregnant at a Miramichi jail, but she was refused health care after she started bleeding. A month later, she learned she had lost the baby. (Radio-Canada)

A woman who was pregnant while in the Miramichi women's jail said she was denied access to a doctor after she started to bleed and later learned she lost her baby.

Julie Arseneau of Edmundston was arrested Oct. 16, when she was two months pregnant. She was charged with breaking and entering and breach of probation.

The next day, while at a court appearance in Edmundston, the 21-year-old started bleeding and was immediately transported to hospital.

There, a doctor wrote a letter saying she needed to have an ultrasound done as soon as she was back at the Miramichi Women's Correctional Centre, Arseneau told Radio-Canada.

But almost a week later, on Oct. 22, at another court appearance, the judge was shocked that never happened.

Judge Natalie LeBlanc left the courtroom to call the jail herself, according to Arseneau's lawyer, Shawn Beaulieu, who was in court but not assigned to the case at the time.

But that did little to help Arseneau's case.

"I bled profusely for almost two weeks," said Arseneau.

They could have done something. If you have a head on your shoulders, you know a pregnant woman bleeding is not normal. You have to bring her to the hospital.- Julie Arseneau

She went back to the jail after her appearance and would remain there for another 20 days, without ever getting the ultrasound.

At that point, her lawyer decided to ask for a provisional release.

On Nov. 13, Arseneau pleaded guilty to some of the charges she was facing and was released on conditions.

Finally sees doctor

In the days after her release, Arseneau was seen by a doctor and an ultrasound was performed — about a month after her first bleed. What she dreaded was then confirmed: she lost her baby.

Arseneau doesn't know if she had the miscarriage before or after going to jail, or whether having an ultrasound sooner would have changed anything. But she said she thinks jail staff didn't handle her case properly.

"They could have done something," she said. "If you have a head on your shoulders, you know a pregnant woman bleeding is not normal. You have to bring her to the hospital."

Shawn Beaulieu, Arseneau's lawyer, said even an accused individual has rights. (Radio-Canada)

Arseneau's lawyer said he was at a loss to understand how this happened.

"It's unacceptable for someone who is in remand not being able to see a doctor when they're pregnant and bleeding," Beaulieu said.

"Even if someone is accused, they have rights."

Public Safety not commenting yet

The Department of Public Safety, meanwhile, refused to comment, citing confidentiality, but said it took seriously its responsibility to offer health services to incarcerated people.

Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart said during a media scrum at the New Brunswick legislature that he couldn't comment on the matter because he hasn't been given the specifics.

Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart spoke to reporters at the New Brunswick legislature on Thursday but said he didn't know the specifics of Arseneau's case. (CBC)

"On face value … you expect the best care for anybody, both inside prison and outside prison, and I certainly feel that in any situation that the best health care that can be provided should be," Urquhart told reporters.

Opposition parties have called for an inquiry into the case — something the minister said he will consider once given all the facts.

Arseneau is due back in court on Feb. 13 for sentencing but she said she and her lawyer will do everything they can so that she doesn't have to go back to the Miramichi prison.

With files from Radio-Canada

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