A Jehovah’s Witness and her deadly devotion
Did a Jehovah’s Witness die after refusing a blood transfusion, and should the state have let it happen?
October 28, 2016
On Oct. 6, Dupuis, then 27, entered a birthing centre in the Quebec City suburb of Lévis. Six days later she died in hospital shortly after delivering a baby boy. Attention has focused on whether Dupuis, who practised the rituals and attended the services of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, ultimately invoked one of the Church’s chief tenets: refusing a blood transfusion, even if it might have saved her life.
The other part of her life was often in contradiction to the first. The only child of practising Jehovah’s Witnesses, she wasn’t allowed to go to the movies. (Twilight, with its focus on vampires and blood, was particularly verboten.) The boy in question from her youth “caused a problem” because he wasn’t a Witness, says her friend Cassandra Zélézen. They were forbidden from seeing one another.Éloïse Dupuis had a foot in two very different worlds. She liked makeup, smartphones and, as a teenager, had a crush on a boy. She went to the cinema—the Twilight movie series was her favourite—and babysat the triplets who lived down the dirt road from her house in the town of Ste-Julienne, a village about 70 km northeast of Montreal. She shopped: Sport Experts for Pumas, the pharmacy for cosmetics, Joshua Perets for most everything else.
And in a province often struggling with how to legislate what (mostly Muslim) women can wear in public in the name of religion, the case of Éloïse Dupuis is more vexing. Many Quebecers now wonder if the state should be able prevent consenting, otherwise healthy adults from adhering to a potentially deadly (and very Christian) belief in the sanctity of one’s own blood.
While the church wouldn’t say whether Dupuis refused a blood transfusion, Quebec’s health minister confirmed as much when he said in the National Assembly that Dupuis “had given informed consent . . . free of external pressure” several times throughout her ordeal.
Her non-Jehovah’s Witnesses family members and friends believe otherwise, saying Dupuis had an emergency hysterectomy (a result of complications during childbirth) and was subjected to an induced coma that, by its very nature, prevents consent of any kind. “For six days they watched her die,” says Manon Boyer, Dupuis’s aunt. Zélézen, one of the triplets Dupuis babysat, says she learned about Dupuis’s imminent death by reading messages of condolence from Jehovah’s Witnesses on Facebook. She and her sisters rushed from Montreal to the hospital in Lévis, where nurses told her that Dupuis had minutes left to live.“When we got there, three men from the Church, one who was all in black, blocked us from going into the room,” Zélézen says. “Five minutes later she was dead. Everyone who came out of the room was a Jehovah’s Witness.”