patient sues pittsburgh hospital after false positive drug test

Those first days after parents take their newborn home from the hospital are a whirlwind experience. New moms and dads have so much to learn about their baby and all of the intricacies of caring for him or her, usually under the heavy weight of sleep deprivation. Although it’s a very happy time for parents, it can also be overwhelming.

Now just imagine that as you go through this experience, you are suddenly and inexplicably accused of a serious crime. This is precisely what happened to a Pennsylvania woman after she gave birth to her daughter last summer. The woman and her husband have filed a lawsuit against Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, claiming that the subsequent criminal investigation was not only unnecessary, but a terrifying, intrusive act of hospital negligence

What sparked the incident was the stuff of TV sitcoms, but with serious consequences: A day or two before she gave birth to her daughter, the expectant mother from Brighton Heights purchased and ate some poppy seed bread from a local farmer’s market. Unbeknownst to her, her urine underwent a drug test, which resulted in an “unconfirmed positive” for opiates.

Anecdotes about poppy seeds causing such false positives abound, and in fact, two other women in nearby counties had a similar experience. Nevertheless, in this case, a social worker showed up at the new parents’ door just hours after they arrived home from the hospital. The mother was investigated by the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families over the next two months. The family cooperated with authorities, but ultimately filed a lawsuit alleging breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, negligence, slander and defamation.  

The outcome of this case remains to be seen, though the plaintiffs are hopeful, and glad things didn’t get any worse; they never lost custody of their child. Still, the alleged negligence of the hospital staff in failing to properly analyze the test results has been damaging enough: “Knowingly harming your child,” the mother said. “It’s hard to put into words how it feels for someone to accuse you of that.”

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Woman sues Magee-Womens Hospital over false drug test results,” Paula Reed Ward, March 11, 2014

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