Fact Check on Aisle Three Please

Stories about Madeleine Gauron, a 76-year-old Quebec woman pronounced brain dead have been popping up in the (anti-abortion and) anti-euthanasia press.

And almost exclusively in the anti-euthanasia press.  The source most quoted is that bastion of journalism, LifeSiteNews:

Madeleine Gauron is now able to eat, walk and talk, and immediately recognized her family. Her children have decided to take legal action against the hospital.

As anecdotes similar to Gauron’s continue to pile up, “brain death” as a legitimate diagnosis of actual death is increasingly being questioned by concerned family members and medical professionals, some of whom have charged that the “brain death” criteria was created simply to ensure that harvested organs are fresh.

At one point, it is cited that there is no established criteria requiring confirmation of brain death in these situations, however (possibly because of how bereaving families might view these tests?), and that seems to me a glaring oversight in the medical system, if true.

Either way, it seems that Gauron, 76 and deemed schizophrenic, was admitted for a routine surgery.  During her recovery, she was fed food that she couldn’t really process.  As a consequence, she choked and slipped into a coma, at which point the staff brought up the possibility of organ donation.  The only mainstream news source to cover this so far is L’Express:

Jugeant la situation irréaliste, le couple a décidé de mettre de côté la question du don d’organes, insisté pour que la dame subisse un examen au cerveau pour s’assurer qu’elle soit véritablement décédée et exigé la mise en place d’un soluté.

… Le lendemain, soit le lundi, le couple épuisé décide d’appeler à l’hôpital pour s’informer de l’état de santé de la septuagénaire. C’est à ce moment qu’il apprend que la dame est sortie du coma.

One thing I strongly regret was never having learned French, in a bilingual nation.  So I have to rely on mechanical and imperfect translation:

Considering the situation unrealistic, the couple decided to put aside the issue of organ donation, and insisted on a brain scan and review to verify that she was truly dead.

… The next day, Monday, the exhausted couple decided to call the hospital to inquire about the health of their mother. That’s when they learned that she came out of her coma.

Which sounds possibly more like a clinic that tried to cover its butt, and / or made a really crappy value judgment about a person’s life.  For which they should (and will) face legal recourse.  But incontrovertible proof that all medical understanding of brain death is a lie and justification for outlawing all possible forms of euthanasia?  I’d like a fact-check, thank you.

Especially when the debate on euthanasia in Canada has been reopened recently due to recent news, preparations for an upcoming Supreme Court case, and rumours of Conservative MPs proposing bills to ban it.  The timing is curious, and smells of a political agenda attempting to hijack a family’s tragedy.

It’s worth fact-checking.


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