It was the happiest day of Elizabeth Mort and Alexander Rodriquez's lives when their daughter Isabella was born. But that joy soon turned to shock and anger when three-day-old Baby Isabella was seized by child protective services and held for five days -- all because the mother ate an "everything" bagel.
As detailed in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, it is the policy of Jameson Health Systems to drug test new mothers. While that might sound reasonable, the threshold for a mom to test positive is far below the level used when testing federal workers -- so low, in fact, that the few poppy seeds on the bagel Elizabeth Mort two hours before her test was enough for the hospital to label her an opiate user. Outrageously, the hospital then reported Mort to Lawrence County Children and Youth Services, which then obtained a court order to take her child away.
At no point did the hospital ever inform Mort she had tested positive.
The child has thankfully been returned to Mort and her partner. But the risk is that such a tragedy could happen to someone else. Tell Jameson Health System CEO Douglas Danko that the policy of treating mothers like criminals needs to change, and that his company should immediately raise the threshold at which it considers a drug test "positive" to the level used for federal workers. And rather than presuming their guilt and violating mothers' constitutional rights, Jameson Health System should only report parents to the authorities if there is clear evidence a child has been abused or is at immediate risk of abuse -- and a drug test doesn't cut it.
Photo Credit: niznoz
- President / Chief Executive Officer
- Director of Public Relations & Marketing
I am writing to express my concern over Jameson Health System's policy of drug-testing new mothers and reporting them to the authorities if they exceed an arbitrary and exceptionally low threshold. This policy has already been shown to disrupt the lives of law-abiding, responsible parents like Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriquez, whose baby girl was seized by Lawrence County Child & Youth Services and held for five days -- all because Mort ate an "everything" bagel with poppy seeds, which caused her to falsely test positive for opiates.
As it stands, Jameson Health System considers a positive drug test one that exceeds 300 nanograms/mL of opiate metabolites, and just 100 nanograms/mL for morphine. By contrast, the federal government has a threshold for its workplace of 2000 nanograms/mL, a level that's necessary in order to avoid the problem of false positives. Given that these tests can cause a mother to lose her newborn child, Jameson Health System should -- at a minimum -- raise the threshold at which it considers a drug test "positive" to match the level used for federal workers.
Jameson Health System should also refrain from violating the constitutional rights of its patients. Hospital staff should not report mothers to child services over a drug test result when there's no evidence the child's health is in danger, especially since the mere word of hospital staff is enough for new parents to lose their child. And they should only conduct drug screening based on the informed consent of the mother.
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