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Covering up mistakes, regardless of the threat to women: excerpts from the Gosnell Grand Jury report

by | Mar 22, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Page1re-216x300West Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell is on trial on eight counts of murder. Friday ends the first week of what is expected to a trial that runs 6-8 weeks. In a separate story we are running an update on what is taking place before the jury. In this installment from the 261-page Grand Jury report we read of “Gosnell’s alarming and self-serving practice of covering up life-threatening mistakes, no matter the risk to the patient.”

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When something went wrong, Gosnell avoided seeking emergency assistance for patients

If something went wrong during a procedure – and it inevitably did, given Gosnell’s careless techniques and gross disregard for patient safety – he avoided seeking help. Sherilyn Gillespie, the Department of State investigator who participated in the raid [on Gosnell’s abortion clinic in 2010] interviewed a number of former patients whose experiences illustrate Gosnell’s alarming and self-serving practice of covering up life-threatening mistakes, no matter the risk to the patient.

Dana Haynes went to Gosnell for an abortion in November 2006. She called relatives just before her procedure to tell them that she should be ready to be picked up by 7:45 p.m. When Ms. Haynes’s cousins arrived, clinic staff refused to admit them into the clinic and made excuses as to why Haynes was not ready. Finally, after hours of waiting, the cousins gained entry to the clinic by threatening to call the police. They found Ms. Haynes alone, incoherent, slumped over, and bleeding. There was no monitoring equipment, and there was blood on the floor.

Gosnell called an ambulance only after the cousins demanded that he do so.

Kareema Cross testified that, after having problems performing Ms. Haynes’s abortion and extracting only portions of her fetus, Gosnell had placed her in the recovery room while he performed abortions on other patients. Rather than call an ambulance, Gosnell kept Ms. Haynes waiting for hours after the unsuccessful procedure because he wanted to try to fix it himself. By the time Ms. Haynes’s cousins rescued her from the recovery room, Gosnell had tried at least twice, unsuccessfully, to complete the abortion.

Ms. Haynes was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. There, doctors discovered that Gosnell had left most of the fetus inside her uterus and had perforated her cervix and bowel. Ms. Haynes required surgery to remove five inches of bowel, needed a large blood transfusion, and remained hospitalized for five days.

Similarly, Gosnell should have sent another patient, Marie Smith, to the hospital when he was unable to remove the entire fetus during her abortion in November 1999. But again, he just kept the patient waiting, sedated and bleeding in the recovery room while he proceeded with other patients. Again, it was an insistent relative – Marie’s mother – who found her. In Marie Smith’s case, Gosnell did not tell her that he had left parts of the fetus inside her uterus. (Doctors are required to inspect the extracted tissue to ensure they have removed it all.)

Instead, Gosnell allowed Marie Smith to go home. When her mother called days  later to report that Marie’s condition had worsened, he assured her that Marie would be fine. Fortunately, the mother ignored Gosnell’s assurances and took her daughter to the emergency room. When they arrived at Presbyterian Hospital, Marie was unconscious. Doctors found that Gosnell had left fetal parts inside her and that she had a severe infection. They told her she was lucky to be alive.

Another patient, a 19-year-old, had to have a hysterectomy after Gosnell left her sitting in his recovery room for over four hours after perforating her uterus. Gosnell finished performing the abortion at 8:45 p.m. on April 16, 1996, but did not call fire rescue until 1:15 a.m. By the time emergency help arrived, the patient was not breathing. She arrived at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in shock, having lost significant blood. To save her life, doctors had to remove her uterus.

In at least one case, Gosnell prevented a patient’s companion from summoning help. The patient, a recovering addict who was undergoing methadone treatment, started convulsing when Gosnell administered anesthesia. When she fell off the procedure table and hit her head, the staff summoned her companion who was waiting for her. The companion asked Gosnell to call an ambulance, but Gosnell refused. He also prevented the companion from leaving the clinic to summon help.

Tina Baldwin told us that she knew of two or three times that Gosnell perforated a woman’s uterus and then tried to surgically repair these mistakes himself. According to Tina Baldwin, Gosnell did not even tell these patients that he had harmed them.

Categories: Gosnell