Woman sues Magee-Womens Hospital over false drug test results

Rachael Devore is grateful it wasn't worse.

The day she went into labor with her daughter, Emmalyn, at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, she said a urine sample collected by hospital staff returned a false positive for opiates, she believes stemming from eating poppy seed bread.

In at least two recent similar cases in a neighboring county, the department of youth and families removed the babies from their mothers.

For Ms. Devore, she and her husband went home with their daughter but were left with a "highly intrusive" Children, Youth and Families investigation that went on for more than seven weeks.

On Tuesday, Ms. Devore, a 31-year-old IT program manager from Brighton Heights, filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging negligence, a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, and slander and defamation seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

More than that, though, Ms. Devore said, "I don't want to see that happen to other moms. I'm very passionate about this suit."

A spokeswoman for UPMC declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, on June 22 or 23 last year, Ms. Devore bought bread at the Sewickley farmer's market and, unknown to her, it contained poppy seeds.

On June 23, she went to Magee, where she was induced. During the process, her urine was drug tested even though she was never told and she never gave consent for any results to be passed on.

Based on Ms. Devore's previous medical and social history, the complaint said, there was no reason to suspect she had used illegal drugs during her pregnancy.

The urine sample came back as an "unconfirmed positive." It said, "the results are to be used only for medical purposes. Unconfirmed screening results must not be used for non-medical purposes (e.g., employment testing, legal testing)."

The next day, Ms. Devore gave birth to a healthy girl. Within hours, a nurse collected urine from her daughter for a drug test, which came back negative for opiates.

Nevertheless, a social worker referred Ms. Devore to the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families and on June 26, three hours after mother and baby were released from Magee, a CYF social worker arrived at their home.

"She inspected the home and did not find any cause to suspect or believe that plaintiff had used illicit drugs,' " the lawsuit states. Still, a CYF investigator was scheduled to go back to the house July 5.

At that meeting, another inspection of the home was completed, and Ms. Devore was told she had to either permit a drug addiction counselor to do another evaluation and drug test, or go to juvenile court Downtown three weeks in a row for drug testing.

Ms. Devore and her husband consulted with an attorney and were told that complying would resolve the investigation most quickly. At the end of July the investigation closed, but Ms. Devore and her husband remained fearful CYF would again intrude in their personal lives. They were told the agency would keep the file on Ms. Devore, and it could be used against her in the future.

"A CYF investigation is terrifying -- especially for a new mother who is already overwhelmed," said Maggie Coleman, Ms. Devore's attorney.

"Knowingly harming your child -- it's hard to put into words how it feels for someone to accuse you of that," Ms. Devore said.

She is most mad at the way the hospital handled the situation.

"There was so much neglect," Ms. Devore said. "It was deplorable."

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published March 11, 2014 12:37 PM

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