In December 2001, an ex-employee handed all the evidence the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) needed to shut down Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic. Officials did not act on it, even when more evidence appeared to back claims of serious health concerns and possible criminal violations.
Marcella Stanley Cheung went to the State Board of Medicine (the Board) and gave them a specific written complaint and participated in an interview in March 2002. Her allegations from the grand jury testimony are atrocious:
She informed the department investigator that Gosnell was using unlicensed workers (including herself) to give IV anesthesia to patients when he was not at the clinic; that his facility was filthy; that two sick, flea-infested cats roamed freely in the procedure rooms, vomiting throughout; that Gosnell ate in the procedure rooms; that the autoclave used to sterilize instruments was broken; that he reused single-use curettes; that there were no licensed nurses at the facility when IV anesthesia was administered; that Gosnell allowed one patient to use her cousin’s insurance card to pay for an abortion; that Gosnell performed abortions on “underage children” against their will if their mothers asked him to; and that he performed other abortions without consent forms.
Choung told the Department of State investigator that she thought a second trimester patient had died at a hospital after Gosnell performed an abortion on her. And she said that she had seen patient files in which he prescribed 90 Percocet tablets (a narcotic combining oxycodone and acetaminophen) for a patient one week and then, again, 90 more tablets the next week. She gave very detailed information about the files, what she saw, and when. She provided the name of at least one patient, and suggested that the investigator look at her file. Choung wrote that any of the other clinic workers – except one named Jonathan – would be willing to confirm her information.
The filth alone should have made the DOS investigate, but even with forced abortions and deaths the grand jury found the department did not interview any staff members, nor did they use their subpoena power to obtain more information. Instead DOS interviewed Gosnell, Dr. Warren Taylor, who performed abortions in 2001, and the pharmacy down the street. Dr. Taylor did confirm Chuong’s statement about an abortion on an underage girl. Gosnell himself confirmed Chuong’s allegations but made excuses instead and would not give a written response to the allegations.
In October 2002 the Professional Underwriters Liability Insurance Company notified the Board that it paid $400,000 of the $900,000 settlement to the Shaw family. Shaw died after Gosnell performed an abortion on her in March 2000. The grand jury found the Board’s prosecuting attorney Mark Greenwald did not include the following information from the insurance company in his legal summary: “Autopsy report indicated perforation of the cervix into uterus. Heirs alleged our insured improperly performed the termination procedure and failed to diagnose post-op uterine perforation resulting in sepsis and death.” Greenwald said prosecution was not necessary.
Greenwald and his supervisor Charles Hartwell, the Senior Prosecutor-in-Charge, had Chuong’s information that a woman died from an abortion, but did not bother to investigate if that woman was Shaw. The grand jury did not understand how the attorneys could reach the decision to not investigate the death of a 22-year-old woman. Instead they decided to close Shaw’s and Chuong’s case in April 2004, two years after the cases were brought to them.
The grand jury said the Board had authority to impose sanctions and means to investigate Gosnell even further. They did not even contact the insurance company to receive their findings of their investigation. The least they could have done was charge him with violating the Abortion Control Act because he did not report Shaw’s death to the DOH. Gosnell was not punished and free to continue his “medical” practice.