If you are a fan of poppy-seed muffins, don’t take a drug test. Two mothers in Pittsburgh had their new-born babies apprehended after testing positive for opiates after enjoying poppy-seed cake and poppy-seed salad dressing. Sound farfetched? It’s not.
Eileen Ann Bower gave birth to her son Brandon at Jameson Hospital on July 13 2009. She was shocked when a blood test revealed she had ingested morphine/heroin and devastated when child protection authorities seized baby Brandon. It wasn’t until September 29 2009 that her baby was returned to her.
Ms. Bower has sued Lawrence County’s child protection agency, a case worker and Jameson Hospital in Pittsburgh for negligence, invasion of privacy and lack of due process. A second baby girl, Isabella Rodriguez, born to Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriguez, was also apprehended from the same hospital after her mother’s urine test came back positive for opiates. Each of the moms had eaten poppy-seeds before giving birth to their children.
Ms. Mort is now represented by the American Civil Liberties Association who filed an action in October 2010 for breach of her constitutional right to have care and custody of her daughter and is seeking a jury trial.
The investigation prompted by these two incidents uncovered hospital guidelines whereby drug testing was automatic for mothers who gave birth, as was the hospital’s policy to immediately forward the positive results of a drug test to the Lawrence County child protection authorities.
In Ms. Mort’s case the apprehension proceeded even though baby Isabella did not test positive for opiates. Mort’s lawsuit refers to the lack of proper investigation procedures and the high-handed manner in which the authorities separated mother and infant. Ms. Mort was luckier than Ms. Bower as Isabella was returned five days after the apprehension.
Rigorous scientific testing has determined that the opiate connection to miniscule poppy-seeds is legitimate.
The Discovery Channel conducted a televised experiment to determine if the poppy-seed story was merely a myth. They found that a person who ate one serving of poppy-seed cake tested positive for opiates (morphine, heroin or codeine) one-half hour after consuming the cake. Another human guinea pig ingested three poppy-seed bagels, leaving opiates in her system three hours after the consumption. Both individuals continued to test positive up to 16 hours later.
Both the hospital and the child protection agency in Lawrence County deserve the censure that will undoubtedly be the result of these lawsuits. It is unimaginable to think that two innocent families faced unfounded accusations of drug abuse and suffered untold pain at a time that should have been the most joyous of their lives.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang