Daughter of 'house of horrors' abortion clinic victim files suit against city health department

By Jon Campisi | Nov 30, 2011

The daughter of one of the victims of Philadelphia abortion doctor and accused murderer Kermit Gosnell has filed a federal lawsuit against Philadelphia’s public health department and the health commissioner, claiming her mother’s death is somewhat attributable to the city’s alleged lax oversight of the abortion clinic where her mother met her demise.

The daughter of one of the victims of Philadelphia abortion doctor and accused murderer Kermit Gosnell has filed a federal lawsuit against Philadelphia’s public health department and the health commissioner, claiming her mother’s death is somewhat attributable to the city’s alleged lax oversight of the abortion clinic where her mother met her demise.

Yashoda Devi Gurung filed her lawsuit Nov. 18 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia with the help of attorneys Bernard W. Smalley, Joe H. Tucker, Jr., and Riley H. Ross of the Philadelphia-based Tucker Law Group.

Gurung, of Virginia, is suing the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Donald F. Schwarz, the city’s health commissioner and deputy mayor for health and opportunity, on behalf of her deceased mother, Karna Maya Mongar, who had traveled from her Virginia home to Philadelphia to have an abortion.

Mongar was 41 years old when she died on Nov. 20, 2009. She was under the care of Gosnell at the time.

Gosnell has since been charged with murder after authorities discovered what some have dubbed a “charnel house” at his gynecological practice at 3801 Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia.

Gosnell was charged earlier this year by a grand jury with third degree murder in connection with the deaths of Mongar and seven babies who prosecutors have said were born alive, and then killed with scissors.

Gosnell was arrested in late January along with various assistants at his practice, many of whom were unlicensed, yet allegedly dispensed medicine and helped with the treatment of patients.

Most of the women who sought treatment at Gosnell’s practice were either poor or immigrants, according to past news reports.

In her lawsuit, Gurung claims that her mother went to Gosnell’s practice, dubbed Women’s Medical Society, on Nov. 18, 2009 for a “dilation and evacuation,” and she was told to return the following day.

Upon her return on Nov. 19, Mongar was given medicine by an unlicensed employee named Lynda Gayle Williams. the suit claims. This took place while Gosnell was not in the room.

Later that evening, Mongar began to experience cramping, the lawsuit alleges, and Gosnell, contacted via cell phone, instructed Williams to administer pain medication via syringe to Mongar.

Later that evening, Mongar was given a local anesthetic and underwent the abortion procedure, the suit states. During the procedure, however, there was no monitoring of Mongar’s pulse, respirations, blood pressure, cardiac rhythm, pulse, oxygen and anesthesia level, the lawsuit claims, citing medical records obtained from the practice.

Medical records of the Philadelphia Fire Department’s emergency medical services team that arrived for a call of an unresponsive patient show Mongar had no pulse, no respiration and was totally unresponsive, the suit states.

There was also no IV access available upon EMS arrival at the clinic.

Mongar was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she was pronounced dead on Nov. 20, 2009, the suit states.

The lawsuit accuses the city’s health department of inaction for “ignoring signs of conditions that could and ultimately do harm both Philadelphians and visitors to Philadelphia.”

The complaint states that the grand jury investigating Gosnell issued a report in early January of this year that highlighted the health department’s “deeply flawed policies and practices.”

The suit alleges that the health department had numerous warnings of purported health violations taking place at the clinic that often went unchecked. One department employee received an anonymous tip back in 2003 that aborted fetuses were being stored in paper bags in the employee refrigerator at Gosnell’s clinic.

A site visit by health department employees in 2004 turned up numerous infectious waste violations, the suit claims. Nevertheless, Gosnell went on to operate his clinic.

Six years later, in 2010, investigating grand jurors visited the facility and noticed boxes of waste sitting on the basement floor, aborted fetuses in plastic containers in the freezer and bags of fetal tissue piled up in the clinic, the suit states.

“Defendant PDPH’s practices and policies allowed these hazardous conditions to exist despite the tools and, according to their Mission Statement, the duty to rid the environment of such risks,” the complaint states. “Instead, the Grand Jury concluded, the Defendant PDPH was more concerned with collecting revenues than actually enforcing the regulations governing the disposal of infectious waste.”

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of federal civil rights violations. Gurung seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs, attorney’s fees and other court relief.

The Gosnell story shocked the Philadelphia community after authorities described their findings in the West Philly clinic.

In a Philadelphia Daily News story in January on the day of the doctor’s arrest, officials were quoted as describing the scene at Gosnell’s clinic as being like something out of a horror movie.

“There were bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building,” District Attorney Seth Williams told the paper at the time. “There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he [Gosnell] kept for no medical purpose.”

The so-called “house of horrors” also had not been inspected by state regulators since the early 1990s, Williams said at the time.

According to past media reports, Gosnell was known to induce labor on his patients, forcing the live births of babies in the sixth, sevenths and eighth months of pregnancy, and then killing the babies by using scissors to sever their spinal cords.

Media outlets reported that police finally stumbled upon Gosnell’s clinic after responding to a drug-related complaint last year.

Since the abortion clinic story unfolded earlier this year, five people charged in the case have already pleaded guilty, including Lynda Williams, the assistant mentioned in the federal lawsuit. Others who have pleaded guilty include an unlicensed doctor who told the grand jury he snipped the spinal cords of more than 100 babies after witnessing them “breathe, move or show other signs of life,” according to an ABC 6 News report from earlier this month.

Ten people were charged in total.

On Nov. 17, the day before Gurung’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of her dead mother, Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, 50, came out saying she was considering weighing a deal to plead guilty in connection with the case in exchange for a lesser sentence.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer report, Pearl Gosnell’s attorney disclosed the negotiations with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office during a status hearing before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner.

The attorney, F. Michael Medway, asked the judge to schedule a new status hearing for Dec. 1 for his client, who is charged with participating in her husband’s illegal, late-term abortion operation.

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