A mother has filed a lawsuit against Pittsburgh hospital for screening her for illegal drug use, during labor, without her consent. The test, a false positive resulted in a baseless child abuse investigation.

The plaintiff, Cherell Harrington, filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. According to Post Gazette , the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) gave Harrington’s medical information to Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families and this led to a child abuse probe. The lawsuit highlights that Harrington’s urine drug test results were "unconfirmed positive" and the second drug test was "negative."

Reports reveal that the hospital staff also tested the plaintiff’s newborn son, and results showed that there were no signs of maternal drug abuse. The lawsuit highlights that Harrington was targeted with "highly intrusive, humiliating and coercive child abuse allegations." It stated that she was also "subjected to multiple home inspections" by the county officials.

A caseworker from the County office, as per ABC News , obtained medical records and called her dentist, pediatrician and her 11-year-old daughter’s school. Harrington, in the lawsuit, revealed that she was threatened with longer-term mandatory drug testing if she did not submit to the program. She stated in the lawsuit that the county violated her constitutional rights and her medical privacy.

In an interview, Harrington disclosed that she felt reluctant to seek care for her cesarean section as she was too violated and traumatized by UPMC. “I would like for them to acknowledge that they have hurt many women and children and ruined experiences when they shouldn’t have the power to do that,” she said. “What they did was so traumatizing and so hurtful.”

For UPMC, being in the legal limelight isn’t something new. In 2014, they had the first lawsuit filed against them. Moreover, UPMC has been facing legal actions and tackling ethical complaints filed from around the country for similar false positives that turned into child custody battles.

Allegheny County’s deputy director, Department of Human Services which oversees the division of Children, Youth, and Families, Jacki Hoover said they have a process to follow, including an interview, and an initial assessment of the home and the child’s safety when they receive reports from a health care facility.

Through the lawsuit against UPMC, Harrington is seeking compensatory damages for violating the physician-patient confidentiality and privacy as well as reimbursement of legal fees and other related costs.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pixabay/maryvan