An OB/GYN says the drug used by Dr. Kermit Gosnell to abort babies would take longer to have an effect than a more commonly used drug.
Dr. Karen Fiesullin testified Tuesday that Digoxin, a drug used by Gosnell to stop fetuses’ hearts in the womb, could take up to 24-hours to kill the babies. Prosecutors allege Gosnell delivered seven babies alive and then killed them by snipping their spinal cords with a pair of scissors.
The testimony started week three of the former abortion doctor’s murder trial. Gosnell faces first degree murder charges in the babies’ deaths. He also faces third-degree murder charges in the 2009 death of patient Karnamaya Mongar.
Fiesullin told the court Potassium chloride is typically used by doctors to stop fetuses hearts in utero and that it has an almost immediate effect. The doctor said she’s never heard of the snipping method to ensure fetal demise and that if the baby was born alive, she would provide comfort care by keeping the baby warm until it passes.
Prosecutors claim Gosnell performed illegal, late-term abortions at his West Philadelphia clinic, the Women’s Medical Society. Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks.
Inside the clinic, investigators found filthy conditions, untrained staff and old and broken equipment, according to court documents.
Fiesullin was asked to examine Gosnell’s ultrasound machines. She told jurors she’s never seen machines so old. Reviewing ultrasounds of one of the babies Gosnell allegedly murdered, referred to as Baby A, the doctor called the images “very poor” and “very washed out.”
The ultrasound listed Baby A as 24 weeks old, but a pediatrician previously testified the boy was much older – between 27 and 29 weeks old. Prosecutors say Gosnell would redo ultrasounds of babies whose ages exceeded the 24 week cutoff.
Fiesullin said the ultrasound machine’s transducers can be manipulated to make the baby appear smaller than it is in reality.
On cross examination, the defense argued there is a three-week margin of error when determining a fetuses age, particularly when babies are in the second trimester.
John Taggart, a member of the Philadelphia Police Crime Scene Unit, was also recalled to the stand Tuesday. The prosecution showed more images of the clinic, its unsanitary conditions and dated equipment. They also showed several photos of fetuses and one of the feet that Gosnell kept in jars.
Cross examination will continue Wednesday. If convicted of the murders, Gosnell faces the death penalty.