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November 10, 2010

Poppy seed bagel results in having child taken away

This is getting ridiculous.

And in Pennsylvania again!

The ACLU and a Pennsylvania couple have filed a lawsuit against a local hospital as well as the Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) for taking their newborn baby away from them because the mother ate a Dunkin Donuts "Everything" bagel the day before giving birth.

Is this insane, or what?

From the Criminal Justice Change blog:

"The birth of a couple’s first child is supposed to be a joyous occasion -- and for the first three days, it was for Elizabeth Mort and her partner Alex Rodriguez. But then the commonwealth of Pennsylvania took their young daughter away after the hospital where she was born reported the mother for testing positive on a drug test. Her drug of choice? An “everything” bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“The best thing in my life had been taken from me and there was nothing I could do to get her back,” Mort says. For five excruciating days, officials with Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) kept mother away from child, all based on a positive drug test they didn’t even bother to investigate -- and which the hospital never even informed the mother about. Now, aided by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the parents are fighting back with a lawsuit against both LCCYS and Jameson Hospital."

Apparently, at Jameson Hospital mothers who are about to give birth are given a drug test to test for the presence of opiates in the mother's system. A positive result can result in LCCYS taking the baby away from the mother.

That's it! Just a positive drug test.

No investigation. Apparently no informing the parents of the drug test (both the fact that it happened and the results) before informing the authorities. Nothing.

Positive test? BOOM! Child gone.

The problem (one of the many) is that the threshold for a positive test in this case is 300 nanograms/mL, which a poppy seed bagel will easily trigger.

They tested the child and found the child drug-free, yet they took the child away anyway.

"But “misguided” is probably an understatement. As detailed in the ACLU’s lawsuit, the state “is removing newborns without any reasonable suspicion that they have been abused or are in imminent danger of abuse, in violation of parents' fundamental constitutional rights, and Jameson is aiding and abetting that constitutional violation by carrying out a drug-testing regime, the primary purpose of which is to further the goals of LCCYS, not provide medical care to patients.”"

There are so many things wrong with this that I can't even talk about them all.

How about the fact that they're being given a drug test without being told about it?

The fact that a positive test is all the LCCYS needs to remove a child, with no other investigation?

The trigger-level is so low that false positives are almost certain?
"At such low thresholds, there’s a good chance other parents will have to suffer -- and likely have already suffered -- the pain of having their child taken away from them based on nothing more than their choice of breakfast food."
Exactly! How many parents have gone through this nightmare? How many have lost their children and had to fight to get them back? And obviously not gone public with it?

I think a full-scale investigation of this is warranted, beginning with Jameson Hospital and then moving on up to the LCCYS. And other Pennsylvania counties need to look at their laws and make sure that something like this can't happen there as well.

This is an outrage.

One final note: Good for the ACLU for finally being on the right side of an issue.

(H/T: Mollie Hemingway)


6 comments:

  1. It is pretty crazy. Especially the "not investigating" to see why the screen came back positive.

    The protocol to run a tox screen can be triggered (in my limited experience) by a lot of things, for example preterm labor. They are looking to see if there is *something* causing the preterm labor. It's not something that people are always informed is being run (and if you're pregnant, you're always peeing in cups, I mean really often - or if you've got a cath in, it would be very easy to get a sample).

    I'm kind of mixed about the not informing of the test part, tbh. Unfortunately, the people who do need to have it run are the reason that many don't get informed it is being run; they can act irrational and possibly dangerous and I think medical personnel want to get hard data before they accuse people of things. Definitely an ethically sticky area here, that is for sure.

    btw, I don't know, but I suspect I had tox screens run without my knowledge w/ both my kids. With Alex, I had preterm labor and with J, I broke my arm. I'd have to get my records and look through them to be sure.

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  2. Given the fact that the woman had done nothing wrong but eat a poppy bagel, I would have to assume that this test is run on *every* mother at this hospital, as she would have given them no real reason to.

    Unless it was preterm, I guess, but I would hope (and these days, that may be an increasingly vain hope, I agree) that the journalists printing this story might have mentioned that it's done in preterm cases, or for other reasons.

    Good to see you back here! :)

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  3. Ha, I'm not dead, I've just been giving flu shots all over Creation! I'll try to be better about reading now that my temp job is about to end...

    At least at the hospital I was at, tox screens were only run if there was some medical reason to do so. That would be something the MDs at each facility would direct in their standing orders to nurses (so for nurses w/patients w/preterm labor, the standing orders are to run a tox screen). I have no idea why they would do it on every woman; that would be a huge expense and hard on the already worked lab people, not to mention ridiculous.

    But who knows.

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  4. This is ridiculous. I would be very interested to know what paperwork was signed upon entering/registering with the hospital. Did it specifically mention that a drug test would be given or does it have a more vague 'any tests necessary' clause? Or perhaps nothing of the sort is even in there.

    (And why just opiates?? If the hospital is going to claim concern for the unborn child, I would think testing for all illegal drugs would be important.)

    Even if the initial testing was 'legal' due to paperwork having been signed, the actions of the social services department was highly abnormal. There have been cases in Illinois where the DHS didn't act quickly enough, but I think removing a child from their parents on the grounds of a one time positive opiate test is completely over the top, and criminal.

    Glad this was made public since now PA will have to examine the current system and make major changes.

    In the mean time I won't be visiting, with or without bagels.

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  5. One question...When can me and my family move in temporarily with you there in Canada? The US is getting to damn stupid.

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  6. Wow, comments! Cool!

    @Sara: Yeah, the article doesn't really indicate whether it's standard practice or if there was something that prompted it. I would hope it's not regular practice.

    @Raquel: The article mentions morphine too, but I don't know why they don't mention the others. Maybe it would be too obvious? *shrugs*

    And you should write a blog! I love that last sentence. :)

    @pr0udmom: You're welcome any time! You can claim refugee status. :)

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