PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A woman who gave birth at Magee Women’s Hospital says she was investigated for child abuse based on false drug tests.
With the support of the ACLU, she filed a class-action lawsuit against UPMC and Allegheny County.
Giving birth is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but not for Cherell Harrington.
“It was just a nightmare. It was the worst time of my life,” Harrington told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Harrington claims UPMC turned over false drug tests about her and her newborn son to Allegheny County Children, Youth & Family Services (CYF).
“Without her knowledge or consent, UPMC drug tested her urine before she gave birth,” said Margaret Coleman, Harrington’s attorney. “It returned an unconfirmed positive result, which is an unreliable result.”
“They tested her baby. Her baby tested negative, baby was healthy,” the attorney added.
Despite that, the suit claims UPMC reported Harrington to CYF, which sent an investigator to her home.
“Questioned me, took pictures of my son, treated me like I was under criminal investigation. I felt very violated,” said Harrington.
She’s not alone.
While Deserae Cook says she used marijuana before but not during her pregnancy and both she and her newborn daughter tested negative for drugs, a CYF official showed up at her house.
“I felt betrayed. I felt like I did something horrible, like I did something bad,” said Cook.
Allegheny County says it does not comment on legal matters, and UPMC told KDKA that state law requires drug testing results to be reported.
“UPMC clinicians make informed decisions regarding screening and drug testing for new mothers and newborns. UPMC follows Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law, which mandates health care professionals to report these findings to the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth and Family Services (CYS),” says the statement.
The ACLU disagrees.
“There’s no legal requirement for UPMC to turn over this information and, in fact, turning over confidential medical information, if you’re not legally required to, is a violation of patient-physician confidentiality,” said Sara Rose, an attorney for the ACLU involved in this lawsuit.
Harrington’s attorney believes this has also happened to other women so she’s filed it as a class-action lawsuit.