Pubdate: Fri, 18 Oct 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author:  Associated Press


Richmond, Va -- Most of the pregnant women who sued a South Carolina 
hospital for giving them drug tests and handing the results over to police 
had not agreed to be tested, a federal appeals court ruled.

The Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston adopted the 
drug-testing policy in 1989 to try to stop the crack baby epidemic. The 
U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the program, which allowed doctors to give 
pregnant women drug tests and then notify police of the results, violated 
the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 
ruled 2-1 that eight of the 10 women who sued did not know they were being 
tested for cocaine and did not consent to the testing.

Fourth Circuit Appeals Court Judge William W. Wilkins Jr. wrote " .'.'. we 
hold that no rational jury could conclude, from the evidence presented at 
trial, that (the women) gave their informed consent to the taking and 
testing of their urine for evidence of criminal activity for law 
enforcement purposes."

The lawsuit now will return to the U.S. District Court for South Carolina 
in Charleston for a jury to determine what damages the women should 
receive, their lawyer said.

"These women had no idea their doctors were acting as agents for the 
police. They said, 'We're here to help you.' Some of the women actually 
were there to get help and then they were turned in," said Priscilla Smith, 
an attorney with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.

Robert Holmes Hood, who represents the defendants, including the city of 
Charleston and the university, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 10 women sued the hospital in 1993, saying the policy was 
unconstitutional. One had spent three weeks in jail and Smith said another 
was taken to jail soon after giving birth.

A federal jury in South Carolina found in favor of the hospital and, in 
1999, the 4th Circuit upheld the verdict.
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