MONTREAL — A Quebec coroner says everyone has the right to refuse a blood transfusion, even if it means imminent death.
Luc Malouin made the comment in his report into the deaths of two Jehovah's Witnesses who died shortly after giving birth in October 2016.
One of the women died in hospital near Quebec City after repeatedly refusing a blood transfusion, in accordance with the law allowing patients to make their own choices and assume the consequences.
In her case, doctors and medical staff informed her numerous times the transfusion was needed to save her, but the woman and her family refused.
Right to refuse medical treatment
Another woman in Montreal did receive a blood transfusion after her husband eventually consented, but Malouin concluded it was unclear if a delay in the procedure led to her death.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe ingesting blood goes against their beliefs and that they should not accept transfusions or donate their own blood.
The coroner wrote that the Quebec Civil Code stipulates that an adult, who is of sound mind and well informed, can accept or refuse medical treatment.
He added that everyone has the right to freedom of conscience and religion under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
The coroner recommended that hospitals and doctors draft a specific treatment plan for patients likely to refuse blood transfusions and that they should also anticipate any medical actions to be taken in the event of significant blood loss.
Malouin said his report should be distributed to any Quebec health centre where obstetrics is practised.
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