Mom who lost baby sues for negligence


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The mother of a baby who died shortly before being delivered has filed a lawsuit against her doctor and the Southern Health Authority, alleging they failed to properly treat the liver disorder she had during pregnancy.

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The mother of a baby who died shortly before being delivered has filed a lawsuit against her doctor and the Southern Health Authority, alleging they failed to properly treat the liver disorder she had during pregnancy.

Jenna-Lee Luptak, of Gretna, is suing Dr. Sahar Abo Alhayjaa and the health authority for unspecified general and special damages. She claims she received negligent care after being diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and that it resulted in the death of the fetus on Jan. 10, 2021.

Luptak, who received the Queen Elizabeth II platinum jubilee medal for her work to raise awareness of the condition, could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Doug Wilson, president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, said while one in four women experiences itching during pregnancy, the condition, which affects between one in 200 to one in 250 pregnancies, is accompanied by increased bile acid levels in the mother that can affect the heart function of the fetus.

“It’s a risk of about three per cent of causing a uterine death,” Wilson said in an interview Tuesday.

“That may not seem high, but it’s fairly high. It is one in 30.”

Wilson said patients in the United States are given medication for the condition, but doctors in the United Kingdom don’t after studies showed no benefit. He said Canadian doctors decide whether or not to use medication depending on their own knowledge and experience.

Creams or other medications are also given to treat the excessive itching experienced by pregnant women.

Wilson said expectant moms who have it are advised to have the fetus monitored regularly.

“Nobody would be put in hospital,” he said. “It is a weekly test… it really is a screening test.

“But it does not have high predictability of predicting an acute change to do an emergency delivery.”

But Wilson said doctors of such patients will induce birth somewhere between 35 to 39 weeks depending on bile acid levels.

The statement of claim, filed in Manitoba Court of King’s Bench last week, said Luptak, who was 36 when she became pregnant, had had six miscarriages and one successful birth.

Luptak was referred to Alhayjaa due to her high-risk pregnancy, and first met with her on June 12, 2020.

When Luptak complained of aching in her hands, legs and abdomen, the doctor started treating her for suspected ICP and ordered bile tests. The woman had been diagnosed with the same disorder during a pregnancy and delivery in 2015.

On Jan. 4, 2021, blood test results confirmed elevated levels of bile acid and liver enzymes. The doctor ordered her to go to the hospital on Jan. 9, for a non-stress test to check the fetus, the lawsuit says.

The doctor interpreted those test results as normal, gave her an injection of betamethasone for itching, and scheduled a C-section for the next day.

When Luptak went in the next day, a nurse couldn’t find the fetus’ heart beat; an urgent ultrasound confirmed the baby had died.

The baby was 37 weeks and weighed 7.5 pounds.

The lawsuit claims the doctor was negligent in several ways, including not ordering an ultrasound on Jan. 9, by not keeping Luptak in the hospital for monitoring, and not ensuring the bile acid test hadn’t given the wrong results.

The lawsuit claims the hospital was negligent for not giving Luptak a proper non-stress test.

Luptak says she has suffered psychological injuries and permanent physical injuries, including infertility and incontinence.

The doctor could not be reached for comment.

The Southern Health Authority said it had no comment.

An entry on the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ website says Alhayjaa graduated from the faculty of medicine at the University of Damascus in 1991.

She completed training in obstetrics and gynecology in Syria in 1995 and received more training in the field in 2004.

The doctor registered to practise in Manitoba on Dec. 2, 2013, and has been practising at the CW Wiebe Medical Centre in Winkler and the Boundary Trails Health Centre since 2014.

She has never been suspended or disciplined and has never had a malpractice judgment against her.

No statements of defence have been filed.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 12:32 PM CST: Updates Dr. Doug Wilson's statement

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