Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Grand jury to probe West Philly abortion doctor

A local grand jury is investigating Kermit B. Gosnell, the embattled West Philadelphia abortion doctor who's been linked to the deaths of two patients.

Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, yesterday confirmed the grand jury's involvement in the case.

She said she was unable, however, to discuss the specifics of the investigation.

William Brennan, Gosnell's attorney, said that he tried several times to reach the 69-year-old physician by phone yesterday but that the two never spoke.

Brennan reiterated that Gosnell has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, despite separate investigations by state, federal and local officials into his practice, the Women's Medical Society, at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

The attorney said a grand jury's involvement with a case "usually means the commonwealth doesn't feel they have strong enough evidence to proceed."

Yesterday's development came on the heels of rumblings from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which is seeking to have the West Philly clinic's abortion license revoked.

In mid-March, the agency released an order that found the conditions of Gosnell's practice violated more than a dozen state laws.

He was required to respond within 30 days, but never did, said Health Department spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman.

The department filed a motion on April 20 to have the clinic's abortion license pulled. Gosnell failed to respond to that motion as well, Kriedeman said.

But the trouble doesn't end there for Gosnell, who has spent most of his 43-year medical career serving residents in Mantua and West Philly.

On May 20, he is due to appear at a disciplinary hearing before the state Board of Medicine, which will consider whether to permanently revoke his medical license.

The state temporarily suspended Gosnell's medical license on Feb. 22, a few days after the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration raided the clinic.

Investigators believed that Gosnell was doling out pain prescriptions illegally.

State officials later said they found that the clinic resembled a house of horrors, complete with bloodstained floors, unlicensed workers who tended to patients and jars of fetus remains.

Numerous former patients came forward and recalled disturbing tales of botched abortions that they claimed to have received from Gosnell.

Some of the accusations were backed up by court documents from 10 malpractice lawsuits that were filed against Gosnell over the years.

In March, health officials in Delaware supsended Gosnell's license to practice in that state, citing concerns over the allegations that had come to light in Pennsylvania.

The National Abortion Federation also said it refused Gosnell's request to become a member after its investigators found more than a dozen violations of the federation's guidelines during a visit to the clinic.

Gosnell defended himself in an interview with the Daily News on March 11.

"No one is perfect. Everyone tries to be perfect. I aspire to perfection, certainly for my patients," he said.

DAVID GAMBACORTA gambacd@phillynews.com 215-854-5994
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