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Medical examiner testifies in Philly abortion death

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A medical examiner changed the cause of an abortion patient's death from “accidental” overdose to “homicide” as prosecutors investigated the abortion provider, a jury heard on Wednesday at the doctor's murder trial.

Assistant Philadelphia Medical Examiner Gary Collins said he ruled the November 2009 death an accident on an August 2010 death certificate. But he said he changed the cause to homicide after reviewing clinic records and witness statements.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is charged with third-degree murder in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan. Prosecutors accuse him of letting untrained, unlicensed staff administer anesthesia drugs and painkillers.

Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven babies allegedly killed after they were born alive.

Testimony this week has focused on Mongar's death. A toxicology expert testified on Tuesday that she died of an overdose of the painkiller Demerol and had an amount in her system that was nearly five times the level recorded in clinic records.

Defense lawyer Jack McMahon has suggested that Mongar had undisclosed respiratory problems that could have caused fatal complications.

Collins found some lung issues when he performed Mongar's autopsy but said they had nothing to do with her death.

“It's not a significant finding,” Collins said.

Mongar, whose family had spent 20 years in refugee camps in Nepal, had come to the United States in July through a refugee resettlement program. She and her husband and three children were sent to rural Virginia, where her husband worked on a chicken farm.

McMahon will continue to cross-examine Collins on Thursday before the trial breaks for a long weekend. The trial, now in its second week, is expected to last for about two months.

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