Woman Who Had Baby Taken By State for a Poppy-Bagel False Positive Drug Test Settles** Lawsuit


[UPDATE: Headline originally mistakenly said "wins" lawsuit, rather than correct "settles."]]

Justice served against an officious state very, very quick to take a baby from its mother, reported via Watertown Daily Times and AP:

A woman who had her newborn taken away because she failed a hospital drug test after she ate a poppy seed bagel has settled a lawsuit over the case.


Lawrence County's child welfare agency and Jameson Hospital have paid $143,500 to settle the suit filed on behalf of Elizabeth Mort by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which announced the settlement Tuesday.

Mort sued in October 2010, alleging that a poppy seed bagel she ate shortly before arriving at the hospital spurred a positive test for opiates in April 2010 that prompted the seizure of her 3-day-old daughter, Isabella Rodriguez.

Mort said she was home with her baby when a county child welfare caseworker arrived with an emergency protective custody order and took Isabella.

The lawsuit alleged Mort was never told in the hospital that she had failed a drug test, nor was she asked if she had eaten anything that could have affected the test results.

The infant was returned five days later, after local officials agreed there was no evidence the mother had used illegal drugs….

Jacob Sullum wrote about this case for Reason in its 2011 beginnings. I wrote about bigger issues of state choices overwhelming parents' rights when it comes to medical care for Reason in February 2001 in a story called "Doctor's Orders."

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  1. A slight twist on a very good Seinfeld episode.

  2. Good grief.

    Ban poppy seeds, already!

  3. Doherty, the headline says “wins lawsuit” the article you quoted says “settled”. IANAL, but there is a big difference. When you “settle” it means you accept and offer (ie, money) from the other party in exchange for dropping the case. Often, part of the settlement is that the party being sued doesn’t have to admit any wrongdoing. Also, nondisclosure agreements are often part of this, ie she may have agreed not to talk about this any more to the press.

    I have trouble with government offering to settle cases, especially when they don’t admit wrongdoing and insisting on gag orders. OTOH, even if the woman prevailed in her suit she’d be a big fat target for further hassles from the government. The only real solution is eliminating immunity for government employees.

    1. an offer

  4. Why the fuck is the hospital sharing her medical records with CPA in the first place? Or even testing her?

    1. Because, FYTW. Duh.

    2. Yeah, medical testing without permission sounds suspiciously like assault to me.

      1. I’m sure she consented to it on one of the myriad forms she had to sign.

        1. Or there’s a “duty to disclose” law.

          1. I mean she consented to the drug test. Of course there’s a “duty to disclose” law. That goes without saying.

            1. No, I mean that they might drug test for medical reasons, but if an illegal drug comes up they have to inform law enforcement. Some states have those, like a psychiatrist has a duty to inform police if a patient admits to planning an eminent act of violence.

              1. “imminent”

                Dude, that’s like two in two weeks.

                1. dammit shit fuck

                  I don’t even have autocorrect to blame.

        2. I’m sure she consented to it on one of the myriad forms she had to sign.

          She probably did. Which, you know, for all the PPACA lovers who think the idea of shopping around for healthcare is so insane, because how do you shop around while you’re having a heart attack–how do you meaningfully consent to some bullshit like this when you’re going into labor?

          Of course, you should research shit like this about hospitals you think you might give birth in, and frankly you should probably avoid giving birth in a hospital at this point because of shit like this, unless you have known medical issues that force your hand.

          Lord do I hate the state.

    3. Why the fuck is the hospital sharing her medical records with CPA in the first place? Or even testing her?

      Because they are required to by law. Mandatory child abuse reporting, and, in some states, mandatory post-partum drug tests.

      For. The. Children.

      1. After the revolution, medical privacy will be absolute.

      2. So if your PCP finds that you smoke marijuana and knows you have children, they’re legally obligated to call the cops?

        1. Um, Yup

      3. Dude, welcome back. Hope all is well.

  5. The fact the state could take your child without any due process is outragious. Screw a settlement. Heads should roll in that situation. Literally.

  6. The only way this could represent justice was if the settlement was paid by the government employees involved in this kidnapping.

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