Manitoba woman sues doctor, Southern Health Authority for negligence after stillbirth

A Manitoba woman has filed a lawsuit against her doctor and the Southern Health Authority, alleging that she received negligent care for a liver disorder during her pregnancy, which resulted in the stillbirth of her child.

Jenna-Lee Luptak is seeking general and special damages from the Winkler doctor and regional health authority after the stillbirth of her 37-week-old fetus at Boundary Trails Health Centre on Jan. 10, 2021.

A statement of defence hasn’t been filed and the allegations haven’t been proven in court.

The Gretna, Man., resident had previously seen the doctor in 2017, but first met with them in regards to her pregnancy in June 2020. She had experienced six miscarriages and the birth of a baby boy in 2015 before her eighth pregnancy, the claim says.

Blood work for Luptak was requested by the doctor on Dec. 29, 2020, after she presented symptoms of itching in her hands, feet, legs and abdomen.

The doctor also started Luptak on treatment for suspected intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) — a liver disorder that can occur in late pregnancy, which Luptak says she also suffered in 2015.

Luptak was not told that the blood work should be done after fasting, the claim says. She was officially diagnosed with ICP by the doctor on Jan. 8, 2021, after severely elevated bile acid levels and liver enzymes were discovered.

The doctor told her to increase the amount of her medications for ICP and to complete a non-stress test on Jan. 9, which was interpreted as “normal or reactive” by the doctor alongside other nurses, the claim says.

Luptak received an injection of a steroid called betamethasone at the same appointment. She was scheduled to return for a C-section delivery the next day.

A second injection of betamethasone was given to Luptak when she returned to the hospital, but nurses were unable to find a heart rate for the fetus after the injection. An urgent ultrasound confirmed that the fetus had died.

Psychological, physical injuries

Luptak alleges that she suffered “significant” psychological injuries, as well as permanent physical injuries as result of the care she received, including incontinence and infertility.

She says the doctor fell below the standard of care she was owed, and their treatment caused or contributed to the death of the fetus and her subsequent injuries.

The claim alleges that the doctor’s negligence was evident through their failure to order an ultrasound for the mother on Jan. 9, as well as not keeping her for further monitoring, and not ensuring that her blood work or non-stress test was done properly.

The suit also states that the hospital breached its duty of care by failing to administer and interpret a proper non-stress test.

Part of the special damages Luptak is seeking includes costs of therapy, in vitro fertilization, and past and future losses of income.

Last December, Luptak received a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medallion for her work involving ICP.

CBC reached out to the Southern Health Authority but has not heard back. Luptak declined to comment.