Coverage of the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell

Philly M.E. Not Sure if Babies in Abortion Clinic Were Born Alive

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    AP
    FILE - In this undated photo provided by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office, Dr. Kermit Gosnell is shown. Eight former employees of a run-down West Philadelphia abortion clinic now face prison time for the work they did for Gosnell. Three have pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. And Gosnell, 72, is on trial in the deaths of a patient and seven babies allegedly born alive. (AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department via Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, File)

    Philadelphia's chief medical examiner has testified in the murder trial of an abortion provider, saying he can't be sure if any babies were born alive.

    Dr. Sam Gulino testified Monday that he examined 47 fetuses recovered from a clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell is charged with killing a patient and seven babies.

    Of the 47 fetuses, Gulino says 26 were part of second trimester procedures.

    Gulino says many of the bodies had been stored in a freezer, complicating his examinations. He also testified that the fetuses were sent on three separate occasions, February 20, September 24 and mid-October in 2010.

    According to Gulino, the fetuses, along with dilators and documents, arrived in various plastic containers, ranging from distiller water jugs to bottles of cat food.

    "The fetuses were fragmented in several places" he said.

    Gulino inspected the bodies to measure gestational age, after slowly thawing the frozen remains to avoid rapid decomposition.

    Inspecting the lungs, eyelids, and other body parts, Gulino was able to calculate the fetuses' gestational ages.

    He estimated that at least 3 fetuses had the possibility of viability, which Pennsylvania law requires an examiner must report. Gulino also believes that two fetuses he examined were beyond Pennsylvania's 24-week limit.

    Prosecutors say that Gosnell or his untrained staff killed at least seven babies born alive. Gosnell's defense lawyer denies the charge.
     
    Earlier Monday, another city abortion provider testified, drawing stark comparisons between his work and Gosnell's.
     
    Gosnell is also accused of performing illegal, late-term abortions and running a dangerously outdated clinic.

    Defense Attorney Jack McMahon's cross examination focused on the fact that there is no proof that any fetus was born alive.

    McMahon said that 45 of the 47 were under 24-weeks old, accounting for 95%. McMahon also said that the lung flotation exam may not be completely accurate because of decomposition after the body is thawed.

    He went on to argue that one of the fetuses, referred to as 'Baby 1-C', has no proof that it ever breathed, no incision on the back of the neck, and no proof of a live birth. 1-C was estimated to be 26 weeks, but McMahon argued that its eyes were still sealed, and fetal eyes open at around 25-26 weeks, indicating that it may be younger than the estimated age.

    Prosecution redirected by questioning Gulino regarding neck incisions found in the back of some of the fetus' heads.

    “Can you think of a reason a neck would be severed if the baby was not born alive?” Prosecutor Ed Cameron asked.

    “No,” Gulino replied.

    “Every piece of objective evidence points towards a still birth, correct?” asked McMahon.

    “Yes,” said Gulino.

    OBGYN Dr. Charles David Benjamin also took the stand, despite Jack McMahon's objection to his expertise.

    Benjamin has performed more than 40,000 abortion procedures in over 33 years as an OBGYN.
    Benjamin testified that he must always be in attendance during drug and anesthesia administration, along with any patient visitation.

    He said he also relies in Cytotec to soften the cervix, but said its improper use can be dangerous.
    Asked about his clinical and private practice equipment, he testified that they are annually inspected as checked, that his clinic is NAF certified, and is inspected every 2-3 years.

    His autoclave machines are tested weekly to make sure his tools are properly sanitized.

    Benjamin said that 5mg of Digoxin (the dosage Gosnell used) the drug used to cause IUFD and stop the fetus's heart, is a very high dosage, and 500 times the average amount given.

    McMahon's cross examined showed that Benjamin once referred a patient to Gosnell, but Benjamin said he did not remember.

    The trial resumes tomorrow at 9:30 AM.