By Dave Andrusko
The murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell is in its first week and is expected to last 6-8 weeks. Today, as most days, we are running 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 where patients chose their own level of medication, where forced abortions were not unknown, and where Gosnell treated white women from the suburbs differently than poor women of color. The reference to “Mrs. Mongar” is to the death of a 41-year old woman with whose death Gosnell is accused of third degree murder.
Patients were allowed to choose any level of sedation, as long as they paid for it
Gosnell did not actually prescribe the amount of medicine, if any, to be used on a particular patient. Instead, he had his staff offer patients a list of medications that could be bought a la carte, in differing quantities, for first-trimester abortions. This practice demonstrates that he was not really practicing medicine; he was running a money-making racket, cutting corners and endangering patients to maximize his profits.
Second-trimester patients always received the highest level of sedation – usually after being administered multiple lesser doses – as part of their package price. The age, size, health, and other characteristics of the individual patient were immaterial to the dosage. Often clinic staff would begin administering medicine chosen by the patient before the doctor ever saw the patient. It was routine for the unlicensed workers to heavily sedate second-trimester patients hours before the doctor arrived at the clinic.
Even when Gosnell was in the clinic, he did not give written or oral orders for medication. Rather, the unlicensed workers determined the mix of drugs they would administer by referring to, although not always following, a chart that was posted in the recovery room. The chart – a “cheat sheet” of the clinic’s sedation cocktails – was handwritten by high-school-student Ashley Baldwin, who worked every night except Sunday at the clinic, performing a variety of medical procedures for which she had no training. …
Even if the strong sedatives offered by Gosnell were being administered by licensed professionals – which they were not – the implications of the clinic’s “Anesthesia for Surgery” form are troubling for several reasons. First, decisions on medication dosages were left totally up to patients, and were almost always made without any consultation with a doctor. Even worse, the patients were encouraged to make these decisions based on factors that have nothing to do with medicine – factors as irrelevant to their health as their friends’ feelings about pain. Probably most dangerous of all, Gosnell’s form offered patients a choice among varying levels of pain, without any explanation of the risks presented by the various drugs or the effects of increased dosages of the drugs. No legitimate medical practice allows patients to choose their levels of anesthesia, especially when their choices are uninformed and based solely on a description of cost and how much pain the patients wish to feel. We were particularly appalled by the reference in the form to a decision being “forced” on a patient by a partner or parents. A legitimate practitioner would never perform forced abortions. Gosnell would and did. As long as he was paid, the patient’s wishes or circumstances were not his concern. …
Latosha Lewis described the same standard procedures as Cross. She testified that second-trimester patients would arrive at the clinic in the early afternoon. They would be given Cytotec and Restoril by whomever sat at the front desk. Cytotec was given to induce labor by softening the cervix and causing the uterus to contract. Restoril, Lewis explained, was to calm the women’s nerves . Women were then placed in the “recovery room” where any one of the several unlicensed workers placed an IV access in the women’s hands. For the next several hours – sometimes as many as eight or nine –women sat, medicated and in labor until either the doctor, or their baby, arrived. …
Even when Gosnell was in the building, he did not oversee the administration of anesthesia – except when the patient was white.
Tina Baldwin told the Grand Jury that the untrained medical assistants, without supervision by Gosnell, routinely administered even the final dose of sedation just before the procedure – unless the patient was white. She testified:
. . . it was two rooms back there. And if he was working on one person in one room, you were in the other room you were setting that patient up to be done when he’s done because it was just a back and forth thing. You would go ahead and medicate this person before he gets in the room.
Q: Okay. Was he present when you did that medication?
A: No, no. And sometimes he asked them – but it was a race thing.
Q: What do you mean?
A: It was – he sometimes he used to – okay. Like if a girl – the black population was – African population was big here. So he didn’t mind you medicating your African American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first. And one day I said something to him and he was like, that’s the way of the world. Huh? And he brushed it off and that was it.
Tina Baldwin also testified that white patients often did not have to wait in the same dirty rooms as black and Asian clients. Instead, Gosnell would escort them up the back steps to the only clean office – Dr. O’Neill’s – and he would turn on the TV for them. Mrs. Mongar, she said, would have been treated “no different from the rest of the Africans and Asians.”