An auxiliary nurse who stood by and watched Jacques Levesque die at Manoir Liverpool in the spring of 2020 has been banned from praticising for six months after pleading guilty to breaching her profession's code of ethics.
On April 26, 2020, Levesque choked after eating a snack meant to raise his blood sugar levels
The auxiliary nurse — whose name is under a publication ban — who brought him the food, froze when he began to silently writhe and kick in his bed.
According to the disciplinary board, the nurse kept her distance while Levesque was choking, because she said she was afraid of him — he had a reputation for becoming violent during hypoglycemic episodes.
In a Dec. 13, 2022 judgment, Quebec's Order of Nurses and Auxiliary Nurses (OIIAQ) reprimanded the nurse and concluded that she had failed in her fundamental duties by not providing first aid to Levesque.
"The actions for which the defendant was found guilty have tarnished the reputation of all members of the order," said the OIIAQ.
The employee pleaded guilty to breaching Section 13 of the order's code of ethics, which states that members must "diligently provide care and treatment to a patient," by intervening "promptly" for a patient whose health requires it.
Jacques Levesque pictured with his family. They say the sanctioning of the auxiliary nurse is small comfort. (Submitted by Isabelle Levesque)
The disciplinary board found that her actions constituted a "very serious offence" that "undermined the protection of the public."
"She doesn't approach him, she doesn't comfort him, she lets fear take over," said the prosecutor at the disciplinary board hearing on Nov. 18.
The auxiliary nurse is the first person to be sanctioned in the wake of Levesque's death. But for the patient's family, it's small comfort.
Family still fighting for justice
The disciplinary hearing heard a 911 call made by the nurse, in which she told the dispatcher that she could not approach Levesque because she wasn't sure if he was choking.
But later, in the 10-minute call, she reports he has stopped moving and has turned blue.
"He can't be violent if he's not breathing," the dispatcher tells her. When Levesque passes out, the dispatcher urges the nurse to help him. She and a colleague try to resuscitate him, to no avail.
Levesque's sister Julie has listened to the 911 phone call several times and says it still echoes in her head.
Jacques Levesque's death has left a big hole in the life of his sister, Julie. (Camille Carpentier/Radio-Canada)
"She did nothing. The dispatcher had to tell her [what to do]. This is someone who has a degree, who is qualified to do this job," she said.
Julie and her sister, Isabelle, have taken several steps to get accountability for their brother's death. They sued the residence and eventually reached an agreement. The facility has since been sold and now bears the name Résidence Saint-Antoine.
They filed a complaint with the Crown prosecutors' office, which they say was not upheld. Radio-Canada was not able to confirm that prosecutors had declined to press charges.
Levesque's sisters think the auxiliary nurse can't be the only person to blame for their brother's death. Julie Levesque has approached her local MNA, Bernard Drainville, to ask him to improve conditions in seniors' residences.
"[We need] more supervision for the elderly. Much, much, much more supervision."
Jacques Levesque was a resident of Manoir Liverpool when he died. A report found that residents were underfed and infrequently bathed. The facility has since been sold and is called Résidence Saint-Antoine. (CBC)
Decision is 'step forward'
Levesque's death made headlines as the subject of a public inquest by Coroner Géhane Kamel, who investigated numerous deaths that had occurred in nursing homes in the spring of 2020. She concluded that his death could easily have been prevented.
Coroner Géhane Kame presided over the public inquiry examining deaths at Quebec's long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)
Paul Brunet, president of the Conseil pour la protection des malades, a patients' rights group, agrees with the disciplinary sanction. He says employees in the health-care network are rarely disciplined.
"For me, it's a step forward and certainly a victory. Of course, it doesn't bring our loved one back," said Brunet.
"There aren't enough sanctions that could ever comfort us after someone's death."
Although the OIIAQ's disciplinary board has the power to revoke a licence to practise, Brunet says it's not always the best choice.
"Writing someone off like that, in disciplinary law, is considered killing them. Is six months enough? It's never enough when you lose someone close to you. It never is. But I'll say it again: it's still good that there was a sanction," said Brunet.