Death of Andrée Simard | The College of Physicians launches an investigation

“Concerned” by information that a patient may have been deprived of access to palliative care, the College of Physicians is launching an investigation into the circumstances of the death of Andrée Simard, at the end of November 2022, at the St. Mary. “The situation reported in the media and commented on by the establishment is of concern to the college,” says the organization in its online publication.

In the minutes of the last meeting of its board of directors, on February 17, the College explains its decision. On January 20, The Press had echoed the grievances of the daughter of Mme Simard, widow of former Prime Minister Robert Bourassa, “relating to the refusal of the Center hospitalier [de] St. Mary’s to administer palliative care to a dying patient”. Mme Simard “would have died after three days of untold suffering and deep distress”.

The publication of the article and the public letter of Mme Michelle Bourassa “triggered numerous criticisms of the hospital center, including those of the Minister of Health and Social Services who apologized on behalf of the network,” we recall.


Andrée Simard and Robert Bourassa during the latter’s re-election in September 1989

Mme Bourassa denounced the fact that his mother had been refused palliative care because she could not be admitted to this unit. The palliative care area at St. Mary’s is adjacent to the oncology department; like Mme Simard had had COVID-19, it was feared that proximity could contaminate cancer patients, with diminished immunity. Informed by The Press, the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal had, at the end of January, announced a change to this procedure; palliative care, notably continuous sedation, could be accessible in the other sectors of an establishment.

Michelle Bourassa “satisfied”

Joined Friday, after confirmation of the College’s approach, Michelle Bourassa said she was “satisfied”: “I will testify in good faith if I am called to do so. The ex-prime minister’s daughter launched a pressure group, #mortensilence, to denounce this situation, “so that people come forward”. Mme Bourassa pointed out that the CIUSSS commissioners had already launched an investigation, the results of which are still awaited. “I gave them the names of the doctors, they said they would contact me,” she said.


Andrée Simard (center), flanked by her children Michelle and François Bourassa, in 1999

For the College, a retired doctor from the McGill University Health Center will be responsible for clearing up the matter. She will have to make a preliminary assessment of the organization of services and the quality of end-of-life care at St. Mary’s, “particularly in the situation reported by the media”, insists the College’s Board of Directors.

“Hasty” reviews

In its minutes, the College also notes that the Association of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists of the hospital, supported by the board of governors of the establishment, had maintained, in a letter dated February 2, that “the critics towards the establishment [étaient] rushed”. The association that represents doctors at St. Mary’s had argued that “the condemnation of the hospital […] without any form of independent review was inappropriate”.

The College of Physicians, under Article 16 of the medical law, can commission surveys of the quality of medical care in hospitals. In their letter, the doctors at St. Mary’s said, “To suggest that we oppose adequate palliative care is inaccurate and damaging to the trust of our people. »

For meme Bourassa, from the start of the controversy, St. Mary’s Hospital Center had made it known “that it was reviewing its practices”. Minister Christian Dubé apologized on behalf of the government. Also, subsequently, the intervention of “governors”, members of the board of directors, “was totally inappropriate”, she believes.

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