Editor’s note. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell stands charged of eight counts of murder. In this section–“How Did This Go On So Long?”–of its 261-page report, the Grand Jury asks, “Who could have prevented all this death and damage?” and answers its own question in the first sentence: “Had state and local officials performed their duties properly, Gosnell’s clinic would have been shut down decades ago.”
Had state and local officials performed their duties properly, Gosnell’s clinic would have been shut down decades ago. Gosnell would have lost the medical license that he used to inflict irreparable harm on women; to illegally abort viable, late-term fetuses; and to kill innumerable babies outside the womb.
Had DOH treated the clinic as the ambulatory surgical facility it was, DOH inspectors would have assured that the staff were all licensed, that the facility was clean and sanitary, that anesthesia protocols were followed, and that the building was properly equipped and could, at least, accommodate stretchers. Failure to comply with these standards would have given cause for DOH to revoke the facility’s license to operate.
If inspectors had looked solely for violations of Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations, there would have been ample grounds to revoke the approval of Gosnell’s clinic as an abortion provider – as was demonstrated when DOH inspectors finally entered the facility in February 2010.
Had state inspectors reviewed patient files, they would inevitably have noticed that Gosnell was routinely performing abortions without informed consent from patients or signed consent from parents. His files revealed that he was performing numerous illegal abortions at “24.5 weeks,” in itself a confession of criminality. Gosnell, moreover, almost never had the required pathology reports for second-trimester abortions.
Had DOH inspectors spoken to the workers, they might well have discovered that Gosnell’s procedure included severing the spinal cords of babies born alive. Revoking his approval to perform abortions would have been simple. But no one from DOH set foot in Gosnell’s clinic for over 16 years.
The Department of State prosecutors did not even need to go looking for reasons to revoke Gosnell’s medical license. Complaints came to them. Marcella Choung, the former Gosnell employee, spelled out his entire criminal operation for them. Complaints of perforated uteruses and bowels; of a patient’s death from a botched procedure that resulted in a $900,000 settlement; and of family members physically barred from summoning emergency help, were all sent to Department of State attorneys. Yet the department considered none of these complaints serious enough to take action against Gosnell.
Had the Philadelphia Department of Public Health reported to state officials all that its employees knew or suspected about filthy facilities, fraud, the unlicensed practice of medicine, anesthesia chosen by patients based on cost, infectious waste improperly handled and stored, and vaccines stored next to medical waste, perhaps state authorities would have taken action against Gosnell and Women’s Medical Society.
And had fellow doctors, the ones who treated the women after Gosnell butchered them, demanded the attention of DOH and the Board of Medicine, that too might have made a difference.
We don’t know. We only know what happened when none of these people did what they should have.