Kitimat couple files lawsuit against Northern Health following stillbirth

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Two weeks ago, news broke that a pregnant Haisla woman from Kitimat was allegedly denied care at Kitimat General Hospital before her baby died later in Terrace.

Now, the woman and her partner are taking legal action.

Sarah Morrison and Ronald Luft have filed a lawsuit against Northern Health, Kitimat General Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, five doctors and a nurse, alleging racist treatment and a failure to provide adequate care.

According to a statement of claim filed in the B.C. Supreme Court last Wednesday, Morrison and Luft arrived at Kitimat General Hospital when Morrison, who was two weeks overdue, was experiencing strong contractions. A nurse found that the baby had a fetal heart rate of 140 beats per minute -- however, when a doctor arrived to see them, he told the couple there was nothing he could for them and they should have gone to Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

The statement of claim adds the doctor offered no examination of Morrison, and that the nurse who examined her took no action when Morrison said she was leaking amniotic fluid. 

Morrison and Luft then called an ambulance to take them to Terrace, but the ambulance took her to the back of the Kitimat hospital instead. According to the lawsuit, the ambulance attendant refused to take her to Terrace, citing a claim from the Kitimat doctor that it wasn't necessary.

Morrison then called her father to drive her to Terrace.

When she arrived, health care staff told her they couldn't find a fetal heartbeat. The lawsuit alleges that no efforts were made to save the baby.

Morrison asked for a cesarian to be performed on her, but one of the doctors said that he "did not see the point."

Eventually, Morrison gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. The statement of claim says no attempts to resuscitate the baby were made. 

It also said that Morrison's health records were filled with racist stereotypes and that they influenced the care she received.

Her records allegedly said that she was in an abusive relationship, that her parents were alcoholics and recovering from drugs, and that she was depressed -- even though no information was collected on Morrison while she was in the hospital. 

Morrison and Luft are seeking damages from the defendants. None of these allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

Northern Health said in a statement released today that its board had endorsed the review of the allegations, which were announced by Health Minister Adrian Dix two weeks ago.

However, they added that "due to privacy reasons and as litigation has been commenced," they "couldn't speak to the specifics of the recent case in the news."