PEORIA — A Peoria woman, in a lawsuit filed Thursday, alleges UnityPoint Health-Methodist paid her $2,000 to have an abortion after the mistaken administration of a drug that potentially causes serious birth defects.
Reneizha Morris, the suit claims, didn't want to have the abortion which was more than 100 miles away from Peoria but felt pressured by the hospital's risk management team. Her attorney, Thomas Mulroy III, said during a mid-afternoon press conference on Thursday that UnityPoint-Methodist did this to "eliminate evidence of their mistake."
Fabiola Orozco, a Methodist spokeswoman, said "UnityPoint Health does not comment on pending litigation."
The suit was filed in Peoria County Circuit Court on Thursday morning. The 17-page suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages, a statutory number that is part of the way lawsuits are filed. In reality, the attorneys are likely seeking much more. UnityPoint is the sole defendant but there are several others who are named as respondents in discovery. That's a legal way to bring a person into a lawsuit without actually naming them as a defendant and allows the plaintiff to possibly add them later.
According to Morris's legal team, the 23-year-old woman was admitted to Methodist in November 2017 for a psychiatric evaluation after having an apparent issue with her medication. After being admitted to the hospital, she underwent routine testing and learned she was pregnant. On November 6, 2017, she had a sonogram that showed a normal pregnancy.
However, due to an apparent miscommunication within the hospital, she was injected with a drug called Methotrexate, which causes severe birth defects when given to pregnant women. The injection, the legal team says, was given without Morris' consent and without explaining to her the issues that could arise due to her pregnancy.
Once she decided to carry the child to term, the hospital's legal team got involved, the suit alleges.
"Morris's attorneys have found the hospital’s records suddenly trail off at this point on how and when she supposedly decided to terminate the pregnancy. Following the canceled procedure, the hospital’s risk manager had two phone calls with her family, which have been omitted from the medical record. On December 5, the hospital’s risk manager asked Morris to come to the hospital to pick up $2,000 in cash and a letter stating the money was to be used for 'a consultation' at a Chicago-area Planned Parenthood clinic," according to her attorneys.
According to a letter, supplied by the attorneys, the hospital had given her the money as she had told the hospital she didn't have enough to pay for a consultation. Methodist, the suit said, didn't inform her that due to the fact that it was them who incorrectly gave the medicine, that could mean the hospital was responsible for the child's care.
"The agents and employees of UnityPoint knew that if they informed Morris that the child's medical costs would be covered, there was a possibility that this information could help her decide to carry the child to term," the suit said.
Due to increased pressure placed on her through the series of meetings, Morris felt she had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy and the baby was ultimately aborted on December 15, 2017, the attorneys said.
"The mistake in this case was absolutely inexcusable," said Mulroy during the press conference, which was held in Chicago. "There is one important rule that everyone in health care follows. The rule is this, no matter what you do, don't make things worse. First, do no harm. The hospital flunked this test in the most appalling way."
At the news conference, Morris, a mother of two boys, said she was looking forward to have a girl. But joy of a pregnancy quickly turned to disbelief and sadness.
"When I told that there was a mistake and my baby night not make it, I was devastated.," she said. "I think about what happened every single day, and I just don't understand how this happened."
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.