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Rape Victim Sues Hospital for Refusing 'Morning After Pill'

June 27, 1985|DOROTHY TOWNSEND | Times Staff Writer

A 21-year-old rape victim filed suit Wednesday against a Catholic hospital for allegedly denying her information about and access to the "morning after pill" while she was receiving emergency treatment for the assault.

Although the woman did not become pregnant, in so failing to inform or prescribe for a rape victim at risk of pregnancy, the hospital failed to provide optimal emergency treatment in accordance with the standards of good medical practice, the suit claims.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the Los Angeles Superior Court suit on behalf of Kathleen Brownfield, told a courthouse news conference that no damages are sought in the suit, "just a change in the practices."

Brownfield was taken to Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital by police on a Friday night last September.

'Next Wednesday'

"It wasn't until the next Wednesday that I received any further medical advice. . . . By then it was too late to receive a morning after pill and I didn't have a choice in the matter," Brownfield, who said she is a student at Loyola Marymount University and a Catholic, declared Wednesday.

Allred said Ovral, the estrogen prophylaxis "morning after pill," must be taken within 72 hours after a rape to be effective as a pregnancy preventive.

According to the suit, Brownfield's care at the hospital included examination, penicillin and the taking of several samples, which indicated that she might be at risk of pregnancy as a result of the rape.

When she left the hospital she was given a sleeping pill, a prescription for antibiotics and written instructions directing her to see her doctor within the next two days for "exam and reevaluation," the suit says.

Since it was Saturday morning when she left the emergency room Brownfield did not see her doctor until the following week.

Catholic Hospital

"When her (Brownfield's) mother asked if, as part of the emergency care, her daughter would receive a pill to prevent pregnancy, a nurse told her that would not be provided because they were a Catholic hospital," Allred told reporters.

A spokeswoman at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital said Wednesday that the hospital had not seen the suit and would not comment until the allegations could be reviewed.

Allred claimed that many Catholic hospitals prohibit doctors from prescribing or providing the estrogen pill because "they believe that taking the pill violates Catholic religious beliefs against abortion."

Brownfield said she does not believe estrogen prophylaxis treatment is analogous to abortion.

Allred said a survey of 12 major Catholic-run emergency rooms in the Los Angeles area conducted by Dr. John Goldenring, Brownfield's physician, revealed that 67% currently forbid physicians to prescribe post-rape estrogen treatment.

Unfair Practice

The suit claims that such failure constitutes an unfair business practice, breach of implied contract and breach of fiduciary duty. It asks the court for an order that rape victims be provided with information and access to estrogen pregnancy prophylaxis, including the morning after pill. Or, in the alternative, that the hospital discontinue treatment of rape victims and transport them to the nearest emergency medical facility that does provide such treatment.

Brownfield said she came forward "only (because) I am in a position to be able to help change something that I think is wrong."

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