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October 15, 2010 permalink
A Pennsylvania mother lost her baby because she ate a poppy seed bagel.
Mom's Child Taken Away After Failed Drug Test; Poppy Seed Bagel Blamed
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — A New Castle woman said her child was taken away from her after the results of a drug test came back wrong.
The woman said she tested positive for drugs after delivering her child because she ate a poppy seed bagel before giving birth.
Elizabeth Mort said Children and Youth Services came to her home three days after the child was born at Jameson Hospital to remove the baby from her home. CYS officials said her hospital bloodwork showed that she was using opiates.
According to the Pittsburgh American Civil Liberties Union, the bagel's poppy seeds provided the false positive.
Sara Rose of the ACLU said CYS may have violated the law.
"One thing I think is a violation is the fact that Lawrence County CYS immediately got a court order without the parents present to remove a newborn baby based solely on the hospital's report of a positive drug test," said Rose.
Jameson Hospital released a statement to Channel 11 News saying that they were only following the law.
A Pennsylvania House Bill 2760 that passed three years ago allows hospitals to test a mother's blood to protect newborns. But the ACLU said Jameson hospital went too far and failed to consider what Mort might have eaten.
The ACLU is representing Mort. Rose said they are working toward filing a civil rights lawsuit on her behalf. The child has been returned to Mort.
Jameson Hospital released a statement saying, "We have initiated an investigation to compare our standards to other community and regional hospitals. And if necessary, we will advise our reference lab to critique their standards for consistency."
Source: WPXI Pittsburgh
Addendum: Case settled for $143,500.
Poppy seed-induced positive drug test spurs changes at Lawrence County hospital
A Lawrence County hospital and the county's Children and Youth Services agency agreed to pay $143,500 and change their policies to settle one of two federal “poppy seed” lawsuits filed over a county policy that automatically separated newborns from mothers who tested positive for opiates at delivery.
Elizabeth Mort in April 2010 ate a poppy seed bagel two hours before she went to Jameson Health System, where she tested positive for opiates in the predelivery screening. Based on that result, the county took custody of her daughter.
“I am happy that the changes made by (the agency) and the hospital will prevent similar situations to others in the future,” said Mort, 24, of New Castle.
Lawyers for both sides filed a motion on Tuesday to dismiss the case. Lawyers and spokeswomen for the hospital and county agency couldn't be reached for comment.
Sara Rose, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented Mort, said one of the most important policy changes is that Jameson Health System will report a positive drug test to Children and Youth Services only when it's based on a test of the infant's meconium, or first bowel movement. In the case of eating poppy seeds, the “opiates” show up in a test of the mother's urine but not in the newborn's meconium, she said.
The hospital also agreed it would talk to parents first about the potential causes of a positive drug test before contacting the county agency.
“As a result of this case, the county agreed to evaluate its procedures to ensure that families had an opportunity to discuss any reason for the test results that come out of Jameson,” said Marie Jones, a lawyer with the agency.
The hospital staff didn't tell Mort and the baby's father that there had been a positive test, so they had no warning when two police officers and two caseworkers knocked on their door the day after they returned home with their daughter, Rose said.
U.S. District Judge David Cercone ruled in pretrial motions in September that the county's policy of separating a mother from her newborn child “without any valid basis for doing so” was an arbitrary use of government power that “shocks the conscience.”
In a separate lawsuit still pending, Eileen Bower of New Castle is suing the county agency and hospital for taking custody of her son for 75 days based on a test result that showed a “trace” of opiates.
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review