Pregnant woman sues hospital for drug test and child abuse probe without her consent

Francis Akhalbey Mar 17, 2020 at 04:00pm

March 17, 2020 at 04:00 pm | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

March 17, 2020 at 04:00 pm | News

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A Pennsylvania mother who alleges she was tested for drugs without her consent by staff of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) while in labor is suing the hospital.

She also claimed the test led to her being investigated for child abuse though the results was negative.

According to TribLIVE, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Cherell Harrington, who was expecting her third child, went into labor at the Magee-Womens Hospital in 2017. The suit alleges that while on admission, her urine sample was collected and tested for drugs, including marijuana, without her consent.

The suit, which is against UPMC and Allegheny County, claims there were violations of Harrington’s First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, 14th Amendment and doctor-patient confidentiality.

The suit alleges that the results of the test came out “unconfirmed positive” for marijuana, highlighting that tests “may react with compounds other than the drugs indicated and therefore are not definitive,” TribLIVE reports.

After Harrington conceived, she, however, alleged she was told she had tested positive for marijuana by a hospital social worker. She was also told the test results were going to be sent to the Allegheny County Department of Children, Youth and Families despite her new born baby testing negative.

A child abuse investigation was subsequently opened against her. After she was discharged, a CYF caseworker visited her house for an inspection after pre-informing her. During the home inspection, the caseworker allegedly questioned Harrington’s preteen daughter “about her mother’s ‘use of addictive substances,’” according to the lawsuit, TribLIVE further reports.

Harrington also alleged the caseworker told her she was to complete drug counseling or be required to enter longer-term drug testing if she didn’t do the latter. The results for her second drug test, however, came out negative, with her drug counseling assessment stipulating she did not require treatment.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Harrington said what she went through left her traumatized and violated, adding that she was coy on going back to the hospital for treatment after her caesarian section.

“I would like for them to acknowledge that they have hurt many women and children and ruined experiences when they shouldn’t have the power to do that. We were there to deliver our children,” she said. “And what they did was so traumatizing and so hurtful. I can’t get that birth, I can’t get those days back. I can’t. I want them to change what they are doing and just stop it.”

UPMC released a statement saying they follow state laws when reporting cases of such nature.

“UPMC clinicians make informed decisions regarding screening and drug testing for new mothers and newborns. UPMC follows Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law, which mandates health care professionals to report these findings to the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Family Services,” the statement said.

This isn’t the first time an incident of such nature has reportedly occurred at UPMC, the Associated Press reports. Another plaintiff in Harrington’s suit also alleged she and her newborn baby were drug tested without her consent despite informing authorities she had smoked marijuana in the past but stopped when she became pregnant.

Though the test results came out negative for both mother and baby, she was still reported to the Department of Children, Youth and Families, where she was investigated for child abuse.

Lawyers for Harrington and the other plaintiffs in the suit are seeking damages as well as a class action suit.

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