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Woman sues UPMC over undisclosed pregnancy drug test

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 11:36 a.m.

Rachael Devore expected a stressful few weeks after the birth of her first child.

But when a UPMC social worker accused Devore, 31, of Brighton Heights of taking drugs during her pregnancy, triggering threats to take the baby away, she said her first two months of motherhood turned into a nightmare.

“The whole approach was just deplorable,” Devore said. “Having a baby is supposed to be such a beautiful experience, such a great experience. It's not fair, and it's not OK for someone to take that away.”

Devore sued UPMC on Tuesday, claiming the hospital giant drug-tested her and her newborn without consent and shared inaccurate results with county social workers.

UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps declined comment.

The Supreme Court ruled against the practice of hospitals testing pregnant women for drugs without their consent in 2001. The court said testing pregnant women violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches.

Devore said nurses tested her urine for drugs when she went to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Oakland to give birth on June 24. The test results produced a “false positive,” Devore said, because she recently ate bread with poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are derived from the same plant as opium.

Even though nurses didn't test Devore's blood for drugs, and her daughter, Emmalyn, tested negative for drugs, a UPMC social worker asked about Devore's alleged drug use, according to the civil complaint filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The social worker referred Devore to Allegheny County Children, Youth and Family Services, though there was “no reason to suspect or believe that (the child) had been the victim or was in danger of being abused,” the complaint states.

CYF social workers inspected Devore's home and checked on Emmalyn during weekly visits for two months, Devore said.

When the visits ended, CYF didn't confirm the case was closed, the complaint says.

Margaret S. Coleman, Devore's attorney, said hospitals shouldn't test expectant mothers for drugs without consent, nor should they share test results with other agencies unless a child's health is at risk.

Last year, Lawrence County CYF paid $143,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a woman whose 3-day-old daughter was taken from her. That woman, according to court records, ate a poppy seed bagel before she went into labor.

Devore said she doesn't want other women to go through her ordeal.

“I'm not advocating to say that some women shouldn't be tested if it's warranted, but in my case, there was nothing that warranted it,” she said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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