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Gosnell used and reused unsanitary instruments to perform abortions, Grand Jury finds

by | Mar 20, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

As the murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell unfolds over the next 6-8 weeks, on most days we will run an update on what happened at the trial of the man charged with eight counts of murder along with an excerpt from the Grand Jury report that was the basis for the indictment. Today’s installment from the 261-page report details an abortion clinic of almost unimaginable filth and Gosnell’s insistence that unqualified, unlicensed staff to “administer drugs – both to initiate labor and to sedate patients – before he arrived.”


Abortion Clinic InvestigationThe instruments that were inserted into women’s bodies were also unsanitary, according to the workers. Kareema Cross showed the Grand Jury a photograph she had taken, showing how the instruments were purportedly sterilized. The photo shows a pan on the floor. In it are the doctor’s tools, supposedly soaking in a sterilizing solution. But the photo shows that the instruments cannot get clean because they do not fit in the pan, and are not submerged. Gosnell would nonetheless pluck instruments from this pan on the floor and use them for procedures. Cross said that she saw Gosnell insert into a woman’s vagina a speculum that was still bloody from a previous patient. She testified about how Gosnell would ignore her complaints about his unsanitary practices. …

Several workers testified that Gosnell insisted on reusing plastic curettes, the tool used to remove tissue from the uteruses, even though these were made for single use only. Latosha Lewis testified that Gosnell would make his staff reuse the curettes until they broke. Like Cross, Lewis believed it was the unsanitary instruments that were causing patients to become infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea. When inspectors from Pennsylvania’s Departments of Health and State surveyed the facility in February 2010, they corroborated much of what the former staff members described. …

As bad as the physical condition of the facility was, the practice that Gosnell conducted inside of it was even worse. It was not a mistake or an exceptional circumstance that forced Lynda Williams and Sherry West to sedate Mrs. Mongar [who later died] when Gosnell was absent from his clinic. According to multiple staff members, that was routine procedure. In fact, Gosnell, the clinic’s only licensed medical provider, rarely arrived at all before 8:00 p.m. Abortion patients, on the other hand, began arriving as early as noon. It was Gosnell’s intention and instruction that his untrained and unlicensed staff administer drugs – both to initiate labor and to sedate patients – before he arrived.

Patients, meanwhile, did not receive individual medical consideration. Drugs were administered without regard to a patient’s weight, medical condition, potential risk factors, or any other relevant factors that physicians need to weigh in determining appropriate medication. Gosnell ordered his untrained and inexperienced staff to administer drugs to patients even when they protested, as 16-year-old Ashley Baldwin did, that they were not qualified. Gosnell told Ashley and other employees that if they were not willing to administer medication and anesthetize patients, procedures that

Pennsylvania law requires a medical license to perform, they could not work at the clinic.

As Kareema Cross explained it, Gosnell told her when she was first hired that it was her job to medicate the patients when they were in pain. But after assigning this as one of her job responsibilities, he did not oversee what she did on individual patients. Indeed, he couldn’t oversee his workers as they anesthetized patients, because he was usually not at the clinic when they did so. His practice was to leave it to the untrained workers to decide when to medicate and re-medicate the patients. He also left the precise medication mixture to the judgment of his unlicensed, untrained staff.

Gosnell disliked it when workers disturbed him by calling for medication advice. Ashley told us that he complained that they were “rushing him.” According to Lewis, “You had to rely on your own. If you felt like they were in pain and you wanted to administer medication, you would just administer the medication yourself.” Williams was known by other staff members to improvise her own drug cocktails. She would give a patient “[w]hat she thought she needed,” according to Ashley. “She used what she wanted.” West would do the same. Other staff members repeatedly reported this dangerous practice to Gosnell, yet he continued to give Williams responsibility for drugging his second-trimester patients.

Cross warned Gosnell in 2008 that Williams gave too much medication, but “Gosnell didn’t care what she did.” Cross would tell Williams that she was giving too much medication; Williams would respond, “well, that is what Dr. Gosnell told me to give.” Gosnell’s practice of having unqualified personnel administer anesthesia began years before the death of Mrs. Mongar.

Categories: Gosnell