Pennsylvania Mom Sues Pittsburgh Hospital For False-Positive Drug Test That Resulted In A Child-Abuse Case

It's the second such lawsuit against the same hospital.

a drug-testing kit
ProjectManhattan / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0 Cropped and resized)

It's the second such lawsuit against the same hospital.

A Pennsylvania woman is suing a Pittsburgh hospital for allegedly collecting her urine without her consent, testing her for drugs, and reporting a false positive to a state investigative agency, resulting in her being investigated for child abuse, the Associated Press reports. This marks the second time in a few years that the facility in question has been sued for a similar course of action.

Back in November 2017, Cherell Harrington went to Pittsburgh’s UPMC’s Magee-Women’s Hospital to give birth to her third child. While there, the staff purportedly collected her urine without permission, resulting in her testing positive for marijuana.

The baby did not test positive for marijuana. As for Harrington, hospital staff reported the results to Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families, rather than confirm the positive test with a second, more thorough one.

That prompted a child-abuse investigation, which Harrington describes in her lawsuit. Specifically, she claims that a caseworker from the agency came to her home and photographed her 11-year-old daughter and questioned the young girl about her mother’s “use of addictive substances.”

What’s more, Harrington says that, though there was no official recommendation that she required treatment, she was threatened with mandatory drug testing if she didn’t submit to a program. She further alleged that the caseworker obtained medical records and called her dentist, her pediatrician, and her daughter’s school.

Harrington says in her lawsuit that the hospital made her feel violated and traumatized and that the county and the hospital violated her constitutional rights and medical privacy.

“What they did was so traumatizing and so hurtful. I can’t get that birth, I can’t get those days back. I can’t. I want them to change what they are doing and just stop it,” she said.

a urine specimen in a cup
  Turbotorque / Wikimedia Commons (GPL)

This marks the second time that the same hospital has been sued for purportedly collecting a birthing mother’s urine without her consent and then reporting a false-positive drug test to authorities. Rachael Devore resolved a lawsuit against the facility in 2014, alleging that while she tested positive for marijuana, her baby did not. She also claimed that her results were not confirmed but that she was reported to authorities anyway.

Similarly, a second mother named in Harrington’s suit, Deserae Cook, says that she admitted to a UPMC’s Magee-Women’s nurse that she had smoked marijuana prior to becoming pregnant but had stopped once she learned she was expecting. She says that her urine was collected — again, without her permission — and that she and her newborn both tested negative. They were, however, allegedly referred to authorities anyway.

“It felt like they were trying to find something, trying to take our child away,” Cook said.

In a statement, the hospital said that it is merely following state law in testing mothers and newborns and reporting the results.

“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,” the statement reads in part.