ME, Defense Argue Over Gosnell Abortion Patient's Death

Philadelphia medical examiner testifies why he changed Gosnell's patient's cause of death

Heated exchanges between the defense and an expert witness highlight the second week of the Dr. Kermit Gosnell murder trial.

Philadelphia Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Collins testified he initially ruled the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar an accident, but later revised the cause to homicide after new details emerged.

Gosnell is charged with third-degree murder in the death of Mongar. The 41-year-old immigrant was 19-weeks pregnant when she came to Gosnell's clinic, the Women's Medical Society, for an abortion in November 19, 2009. While there, she was given a lethal dose of pain medication, according to prosecutors. She died the next day.

Collins cited the West Philadelphia abortion clinic’s “state of disrepair” and “dated equipment" during testimony Wednesday as some of the factors he considered for the revision. He elaborated Thursday regarding the dangerous over-medication of Mongar.

After a series of tense exchanges with defense attorney Jack McMahon, Collins stood up and ripped away a presentation board containing a timeline of events created by McMahon. He then began to illustrate his own points about the clinic, writing down criteria the clinic did not meet to be considered a “proper medical institution.”

Collins ruled the death as an accident on August 13, 2010, but additional details provided by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the tour of the facility in October ultimately lead to the cause of death change on December 17, 2010.

He said that the cause of death, ruled as an overdose of the sedative Demerol, did not change. However, Collins said it was the lack of a trained staff, proper procedures and adequate medication that caused him to rule the woman's death a homicide.

McMahon argued that employee testimonies regarding Mongar were available to Collins early on, but Collins insisted that he was not aware of the new details until months after, saying “This is not TV. We cannot go out and interview people.”

Gosnell is also on trial for allegedly murdering seven infants. Prosecutors say he induced women seeking illegal, late-term abortions, delivered the babies alive and then killed them by snipping their spinal cords with scissors.

If convicted of the crimes, Gosnell faces the death penalty. The trial will resume Monday.

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