A child herself, she awoke after abortion to a sight of horror (Philadelphia Daily News)
Monday March 1st, 2010
MALINA WILLIAMS took one look at the roomful of bottled fetus remains and knew instantly that something wasn't right.
She was just 13, still a baby herself, and had just had an abortion at the hands of Dr. Kermit B. Gosnell.
She said she had thought something was amiss when the West Philadelphia doctor eagerly agreed to perform the abortion, even though he allegedly didn't have permission from her parents as required by state law.
After her procedure was over, Williams said she saw Gosnell cradling a bottle that contained the remains of her fetus. Her eyes darted away and landed on the room with the bottles.
"He left the door open," said Williams, now 32. "I could see all the little babies in bottles filled with liquid, and I started crying.
"He said he did research on them. He said, 'Don't cry, don't feel bad. Everybody does this.' "
Williams' unnerving story of her illegal abortion is among a seemingly endless string of nightmarish allegations being leveled against Gosnell, whose clinic has now been linked to the death of two women.
A civil lawsuit alleges that Semika Shi-relle Shaw, 22, died of a perforated uterus two days after she had an abortion at Gosnell's clinic, the Women's Medical Society, at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue, in 2000.
On Nov. 20, another woman, identified by the Inquirer as Karnamaya Mongar, died after having an abortion at the clinic. The Pennsylvania Department of State said the woman had been medicated by an unlicensed employee of Gosnell's. His medical license was suspended by state officials on Monday.
Gosnell's clinic has been raided twice in the past week by federal and local authorities, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, who believed he was writing illegal painkiller prescriptions, a law-enforcement source said.
The agents inadvertently discovered horrific conditions at the office, including bloodstained floors and bottled fetuses.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Gosnell, many of them over botched abortions, leading many to wonder how he has managed to stay in business - and elude discipline - for decades.
Part of the answer could be that before 2002, doctors weren't required to report civil lawsuits against them, said Leslie Amoros, spokeswoman for the Department of State.
But with the passage of MCARE, - a state law that is supposed to protect patients from "negligent doctors" - all doctors are required to notify the state licensing board if lawsuits are filed against them.
The board is charged with investigating complaints and determining if discipline is warranted. If doctors don't provide state officials with a copy of the complaint within 60 days of receipt, they could face disciplinary charges, as well as prosecution, under the MCARE Act.
Amoros said it was unclear if Gosnell had informed state officials about any civil lawsuits that have been filed against him since 2002.
Basil Merenda, commissioner of the state Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, said the agency relies on physicians' practicing "in a competent, honest and ethical manner" when it comes to notifying the state about lawsuits filed against them. Doctors also can mention pending litigation when they apply to have their medical licenses renewed every two years, Merenda said.
Gosnell's license was last renewed in December 2008.
There's no question that Gosnell has been sued since MCARE passed. Dana Haynes, of North Philadelphia, filed a civil lawsuit against him in September 2008.
According to court documents, Haynes alleges that Gosnell lacerated her uterus, cervix and small bowel when he performed an abortion on her on Nov. 11, 2006.
The lawsuit alleges that Gosnell made her wait for four hours while she bled and suffered pain before calling an ambulance and that he placed her "life in jeopardy in order to cover up his own negligence."
Haynes endured numerous surgeries after the abortion, including one to remove remains of the aborted fetus that Gosnell apparently left inside her, according to the lawsuit.
She claims that the botched abortion left her unable to get pregnant.
Two other women who contacted the Daily News earlier this week said they also suffered botched abortions at Gosnell's hands and successfully sued him. At least 46 civil lawsuits have been filed against Gosnell in Philadelphia over the years, although not all were related to medical malpractice.
Gosnell, 69, who's been a licensed physician and surgeon in Pennsylvania since 1967, could not be reached for comment.
For a number of years, he apparently enjoyed privileges at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. A spokeswoman could not elaborate yesterday on what the privileges entailed, but noted that his relationship with the center was terminated on Dec. 31, 2004. She could not explain why.
In the West Philadelphia neighborhood where his clinic is situated. Gosnell has long been known as a man people can turn to for quick, cheap abortions, Malina Williams noted.
"That was the spot where you went if you got pregnant and didn't want your mom and dad to know. They didn't even ask for ID," said Williams, who lives in Southwest Philadelphia.
Gosnell's cheap rate was one of the reasons why Williams said she ventured to his clinic in 1991, when she was 12-weeks pregnant and in eighth grade.
She paid $175, took a half of a pill handed to her by one of Gosnell's assistants and laid back as the procedure commenced.
"I was sitting on this table, and he had this sucking machine," Williams said. "He sucked it [the fetus] out. It hurt so bad."
The abortion should never have taken place.
Stacy Kriedeman, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said that since 1974, the state Abortion Control Act has required abortion doctors to have "informed consent of one parent" before they can perform an abortion on a minor.
"Failure to meet the parental consent requirement is deemed unprofessional conduct and results in suspension of medical license," Kriedeman noted.
Williams said her parents didn't know she had sneaked to Gosnell's clinic.
After the procedure, Williams said, she felt dazed. She began sobbing when she discovered the nearby room that was packed with fetus remains.
"He told me the morgue comes and gets the babies and burns them," Williams said, her voice growing quiet.
"I asked him, 'How do you do this? Doesn't it bother you?' " she added. "He said he tried not to think about it."
A week later, Williams said, she developed an infection and returned to Gosnell's clinic for medication. He grew quiet when she asked him how the infection occurred.
"It was only after that I started hearing rumors about people getting sick in there, that he didn't even clean the instruments he used."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.