The circumstances of Joyce Echaquan’s death are nebulous. After a live video broadcast of her calling for help – and medical staff making racist comments about her – the 37-year-old’s heart stopped beating. The duty spoke with witnesses in order to reconstruct the course of events leading to his death.
In the night from Saturday to last Sunday, Joyce Echaquan suffers from severe stomach pain. She was transported by ambulance from Manawan to Joliette – a journey of nearly 200 kilometers. Also in pain, her cousin Pamela Dubé went to hospital that same night. “During the night from Saturday to Sunday, there was no doctor in the emergency room,” says Pamela in the Attikamek language, translated by an interpreter.
Sunday during the day, Joyce and Pamela are each installed on a stretcher. Only curtains separate them. Pamela reports that hospital workers give Joyce an enema to relieve her stomach pain.
Monday at 3 a.m., Joyce gets up to go talk to Pamela. Joyce, whose heart problems were known to the hospital, still has stomach pain and is not yet on medication. “She said she didn’t come to get the medicine, she came to get stomach treatment,” says Pamela.
At 8 a.m., Joyce returns to see her cousin. Pamela explains, “She told me they absolutely wanted to give her the injections, and then she didn’t. (This week, Joyce’s family argued that she had an allergy to morphine.)
Pamela does not know the exact time that Joyce received the IV medication. She assumes, however, that it is around 9 or 10 a.m. Monday morning. A nurse later told her that “her cousin was weird” and that she had been injected with a mixture of morphine (a pain reliever) and Ativan (an anxiolytic) “to calm her down.”
Pamela does not know why Joyce received this injection. “She was still pretty quiet,” she says. She could walk, and then she went to the bathroom all the time because she had received the enema. “
Always around 9 or 10 a.m., Joyce is transferred to a closed room. Pamela does not know the reason for this transfer. From that point on, she can’t hear her cousin anymore.
Around 11h, Joyce is posting a live video on Facebook. She screams and visibly feels very unwell. We hear medical staff utter racist and guilty insults against him. In Manawan and Joliette, Joyce’s family instantly worry.
Another of her cousins, Alice Echaquan, sees the video around noon – the sequence was then deferred – when she left her dentist in Joliette. “Joyce asks for help, she says in Attikamek, ‘Get me out of here, because they give me a lot of medicine.’ I was in a mess, “says Alice, who immediately heads for the hospital.
Wasiana Echaquan, Joyce’s oldest daughter, was already in the hospital. Around 12:30 p.m., she posted a live video on Facebook. She says her mother was taken to the intensive care unit. Just before, she had noticed that Joyce was very pale, with “purple lips” and “cold skin”.
At about the same time, Alice arrives there, and is directed to the family lounge. Barbara Flamand, an Attikamek interpreter working at the hospital, goes to meet him. “She didn’t have a smile, nothing,” said Alice. Her fears are quickly confirmed by Barbara: the doctors failed to resuscitate Joyce. She is dead.
Karine Echaquan, another cousin of Joyce, then arrives at the hospital. Barbara updates her. “She was saying a little prayer in the back of her, too, and then we looked each other in the eyes,” said Alice.
Wasiana and Jemima Dubé, a sister-in-law of Joyce, wait outside the hospital. They saw Joyce in the last hour, but they do not yet know she is dead. It is Karine who confirms the tragic news in Wasiana. “It was the worst time I have had in the hospital,” says Karine, in tears. I got there late and then I couldn’t do anything more. “
Around 2:30 p.m., the family can go see Joyce’s body. A spiritual care worker comes to comfort the relatives of the deceased. “She is such a lovely treat,” recalls Alice. No doctor has met Joyce’s relatives yet at the hospital, as her husband and parents are expected.
Around 5:30 p.m., a doctor finally introduced herself to the small group. She explains that everything was done to save Joyce, but without success. The doctor met Joyce that morning, Alice reports. Her stomach was still hurting her. Staff reportedly gave him x-rays and gave him blood transfusions.
The doctor said it was her heart that gave out. Something happened to her heart, too, too quickly, and her “pacemaker” had no time to react.
At one point, Alice says, quoting the doctor, Joyce was agitated. Staff tied her to her stretcher. At a time that is difficult to place chronologically, she was given morphine. “The doctor said to me, ‘We gave her four times – but she wanted more,'” says Alice.
“The doctor said her heart gave out,” Alice continues. Something happened to her heart, too, too fast, and her pacemaker did not have time to react. They tried to do heart massages […], but that didn’t work out. “
The doctor is not aware of the content of Joyce’s video circulating online. She indicates that after verification with the coroner, no autopsy will be conducted. The family demanded an autopsy be performed and began filling out forms.
Around 9:30 p.m., the doctor calls Alice to tell her that ultimately Joyce will undergo an autopsy without the family having to request it. Around the same time, Joyce’s husband, Carol Dubé, arrives with his children. He was in a state of “immeasurable sadness,” said Alice. “We accompanied him to his wife’s bedside,” she continues. Again, we were there to console him, to listen to him, or just to be in silence next to him. Sometimes we can’t find all the words. “
Around 10:30 p.m., stretcher bearers recover the body of Joyce, who heads to Montreal to undergo an autopsy.
The CISSS de Lanaudière, to which the Joliette hospital belongs, refused to give us any information on the course of events leading to the death of Joyce Echaquan. Questions of confidentiality are raised.