A proposed class action lawsuit has been launched against New Brunswick’s largest health authority and an obstetrics nurse by women who believe the nurse improperly gave them a labour-inducing drug.
The women are alleging that the Moncton Hospital either knew or should have known the registered nurse allegedly added the drug to IV saline bags hooked up to pregnant women.
“I didn’t get to meet my girls right away,” said Jayde Scott, a mother of twins and the representative plaintiff in the case, during a news conference on Thursday.
“It’s supposed to be an exciting moment and that was robbed.”
The lawsuit says Scott started having sudden and sharp contractions during her delivery late last month, minutes after a saline solution IV was hooked up – creating a sharp and dangerous drop in the fetal heart rate of her twin daughters.
The 26-year-old Moncton woman was put under an anesthetic and given an emergency c-section, says the document.
The lawsuit – which has not had its claims proven in court – argues that the health authority could have done more to prevent this.
John McKiggan, a Halifax-based medical malpractice lawyer, says the women he’s interviewed for the case have told him of harm resulting from induced labours that range from emotional distress through to concerns that children may have been delivered prematurely.
The action is seeking a full apology and a system for compensation for the harm caused.
McKiggan says there have been several dozen women in touch with his office and the Moncton law firm Fidelis, with one report going back a decade at the Moncton Hospital.
To date, the local health authority, the Horizon Health Network, has acknowledged “at least two” cases of women who had to have emergency c-sections after receiving oxytocin improperly.
It is declining all further comment on the lawsuit’s allegations, noting a criminal investigation is underway.
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The nurse, who is named in the lawsuit as Nicole Ruest of Moncton, did not return a telephone message at her residence.
The statement of claim says she has been employed by the health authority for over 15 years, and lawyers said during a news conference that she’d worked at other locations prior to the Moncton Hospital.
Scott described awakening from the anesthetic as “a traumatizing experience,” that grew more stressful as doctors gave her an account of how oxytocin was injected into her IV bag, leaving small puncture marks.
“I wasn’t expecting it to go downhill so fast,” she said in an interview.
“When I learned what actually happened, it made it that much worse. I’m angry.”
The lawsuit alleges that the hospital “knew or should have known” about the alleged actions of the nurse and have acted sooner.
It says that oxytocin was being administered without the knowledge or consent of mothers, and that “the hospital was aware that it performed an unusually high number of emergency c-section and instrument-assisted deliveries.”
Some research has suggested oxytocin can cause the uterus to tear, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
In addition, McKiggan says that when mothers have c-sections, doctors recommend against having vaginal births in the future.
“It means Jayde is likely never to be able to have children naturally in the future,” he said.
Scott says she finds this “overwhelming,” and feels reluctant to return to the care of the health system in the near future.
“I’m kind of scared … I don’t really want to go to a hospital any time soon,” she said.