Medical error in Dolbeau-Mistassini: rejected hospital appeal

The Court of Appeal dismisses the request of the Maria-Chapdelaine Health and Social Services Center and its two respiratory therapists who wanted to appeal a decision rendered in a medical error file which had dramatic consequences for a family of Dolbeau-Mistassini. The young Émilio Pedneault, who was 2 years old at the time of the events, had been severely handicapped intellectually and physically because of actions taken in 2008. He is now deceased.
In the first instance, the judge had cleared the doctors and blamed the two respiratory therapists and the hospital. They wanted to appeal to share the blame with two doctors.

Judges France Thibault, François Pelletier and Claude Gagnon dismissed the appeal on May 16. They believe that the intellectual journey of Judge Jocelyn F. Rancourt, who sentenced the appellants to pay $ 3 million to the child’s family in May 2017, “is crystal clear; his sufficiency of reasons and the structure of his judgment do not suffer from a defect such as is appropriate for the Court to resume the analysis of the evidence or to retry the trial “.

In 2017, Justice Rancourt of the Superior Court determined that the hospital and the two respiratory therapists were solely responsible for the damages resulting from the inappropriate treatment given to the boy on April 20, 2008.

“In the absence of a convincing demonstration of the commission by the judge of a decisive error of law or an analysis of the evidence suffering from a reviewable error, there is no justification for the Court to intervene, as required by the appellants” concludes the Court of Appeal.

On April 20, 2008, Émilio Pedneault was admitted to the Dolbeau-Mistassini Hospital after pouring caustic fluid (Drano) on his head. The emergency doctors then decided to transfer the toddler to a hospital in Quebec City by ambulance plane, so that he would be treated for burns to the head, to one eye and to the thorax.

The boy was intubated preventively. In the ambulance, the responders realized that the child was in cardio-respiratory arrest.

Émilio Pedneault was in respiratory distress for nine minutes and cardiac arrest for about five minutes, with no signs of precariousness, which left him severely handicapped physically and intellectually.

In his judgment, Justice Rancourt determined that the use of an adult oxygen device and the patient’s lack of supervision caused the tragedy. “The appellants failed to use an adequate ventilation device and to carry out the appropriate clinical follow-up that would have allowed them to perceive the child’s respiratory distress, to intervene to prevent the deterioration of his condition and thus to limit his impact of the consequences on the health of this one. ”

He had pointed out that it was the use of inadequate respiratory equipment by a respiratory therapist who caused the cardiac arrest, but that the consequences of this first error could have been minimized if another respiratory therapist in charge of looking after the small patient had done so. his task properly.

The Superior Court judge had also found that the hospital was liable because he did not provide “the proper equipment to ventilate Émilio”, in addition to being responsible for the mistakes made by his staff, the respiratory therapists.

The doctors, who were also initially targeted in the lawsuit, were innocent, the judge saying they had done their job properly.

“Although physicians in this case are responsible for the hospitalized and transferred patient, they are entitled to expect the institution to provide adequately trained respiratory therapists who can be relied on have to double-check each of the acts reserved for them to ensure that they have been done in accordance with the rules of art. ”