Healthcare News & Insights

Clinic of horror ignored: Doc charged in 8 murders

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A doctor in Philadelphia stands accused of performing illegal procedures in unsanitary conditions. And a city asks: How did this go on for so long?

Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia, was charged last week with eight counts of murder related to late-term abortions he performed at his Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia.We’re warning you now: Some of the details are stomach churning.

Gosnell’s accused of murdering one female patient who died of a heart attack after narcotics were improperly administered to her. The other seven murder charges are for viable babies born during the abortion procedures. Prosecutors claim Gosnell killed the babies by severing their spinal cords with a pair of scissors in a procedure he called “snipping.”

The city’s District Attorney, Seth Green, said grand jury testimony indicated that Gosnell, as well as his staff, actually performed “snipping” on hundreds of babies, but the city lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute each instance.

The investigation began when police were told Gosnell was illegally selling prescriptions for painkillers to patients he had never examined.

Upon entering the clinic, police found shelves lined with jars full of babies’ severed feet, bags of aborted fetuses and bloodstained furniture. No nurses staffed the recovery room and, contrary to state law, no obstetrician or gynecologist was on staff. Gosnell is a surgeon, and his clinic “staff” consisted entirely of untrained, unlicensed employees, including one high school student who was allowed to inject patients with sedatives. Several of Gosnell’s staff, including his wife, were also arrested and charged with related crimes.

How did this happen?

Almost as troubling as Gosnell’s alleged deeds is the seemingly utter lack of oversight of his clinic by public health authorities.

Gosnell’s clinic was inspected in 1989, 1992 and 1993. Each time, inspectors cited significant problems — but re-approved the license without requesting corrective actions. And there were rumors that Gosnell’s clinic was less-than-stellar: At least one private practice doctor — who now heads the city’s health commission — stopped referring patients to Gosnell after he suspected several patients had acquired sexually transmitted diseases from unsanitary practices at the clinic.

Pennsylvania’s laws regarding abortion are fairly strict already — why they weren’t enforced in shutting down this house of horrors is still under investigation.

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