Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Purvi Patel: Indiana; Young woman with no criminal record jailed for 20 years "on charges stemming from a pregnancy that ended in a tragedy." She was convicted on the evidence of a pathologist who used a discredited "lung float" test to show Patel’s fetus was born alive to determine if the fetus was viable. (The conviction and vicious sentence - with the personal consequences as well as the implications for the criminalization of women - make this case cry out for appeal. HL);


The conviction and vicious sentence  - with the personal consequences as well as the implications for the criminalization of women  - make this case cry out for appeal.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.

STORY: "Update: "Granger mom of baby found in dumpster sentenced to 20 years, by reporter Mark Peterson, published on March 30, 2015.

GIST: "Since her dead newborn baby was found in a Mishawaka dumpster in July of 2013, Purvi Patel has been out on bond. Today, she was taken into custody and ordered to start serving a 20 year executed sentence on child neglect and feticide charges. In this case, prison was an option, but not a requirement. While the defense argued for home detention or community corrections, prosecutors warned that would diminish the seriousness of the crime and the age of the victim........ Patel had no criminal history and she lives with, and cares for her parents and infirm grandparents in Granger. Still, the State of Indiana imposes regulations on abortions and it was argued that Patel ignored them for all the wrong reasons.........“When that attempted abortion instead resulted in a live birth, Patel “treated the child, literally, as a piece of trash,” said St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley, who said Patel had “abused her position of trust.” No one is condoning what happened. No one’s condoning the actions, the dumpster and that,” said Rev. Marie Siroky who attended today’s hearing. “But I think the other part you heard from the judge and from the prosecutor, what they said, they felt she ‘was thinking,’ no one knows what anybody is thinking.” Rev. Siroky thinks the Patel case sends a dangerous message at a time when the availability of abortion pills has increased on the internet, and the number of abortion clinics in Indiana keeps dwindling. “And we may be very close to getting only two abortion clinics in the state, or in two cities, Indianapolis and Bloomington. Long waiting periods, this is a set up for this to happen.” Sue Ellen Braunlin is with the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice who has been closely watching the Patel case. She claims it marks just the second time in Indiana history that a law written to protect pregnant women from third party violence, has been used to prosecute women trying to abort. “The expanded application of the feticide laws, it will go on to criminalize women who have problems with their pregnancy or who intend to end their pregnancy on their own.”"

The entire story can be found at: 


See Slate story: "Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman from Indiana, was convicted Tuesday night on charges stemming from a pregnancy that ended in tragedy. Patel was accused by prosecutors of illegally inducing an abortion by taking pills ordered online from Hong Kong, thus committing what’s referred to in Indiana state law as “feticide,” then failing to properly care for her baby during the first moments of its life, essentially allowing it to die. Police got involved in the case after Patel arrived at a hospital bleeding from her vagina; she initially denied having given birth, but later told doctors she had delivered a stillborn fetus at home, then placed the body in a dumpster.  The two charges against Patel—feticide and felony child neglect—appeared to contradict each another: If Patel killed the fetus with pills while it was still in the womb, that would suggest there was nothing she could do to save it once it was born. Nevertheless, a jury found Patel guilty of both crimes, meaning she could be facing up to 70 years in prison.
The apparent paradox at the heart of the charges against Patel is one of the reasons her case received widespread attention Wednesday. When I asked the St. Joseph County, Indiana, prosecutor, Ken Cotter, to explain it, he pointed out that according to Indiana law, a person can be guilty of feticide even if the fetus in question survives, as long as a deliberate attempt was made to “terminate” the pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus.” (The statute includes an exemption for legal abortions.) The prosecution contended that Patel intended to kill the fetus by taking the pills (feticide) and when she failed, allowed the living fetus to die (felony child neglect). There’s another reason Patel’s case deserves scrutiny. It has to do with how the prosecution went about establishing the fetus’s condition upon birth. At the center of its presentation was a method that involved removing the fetus’s lungs and placing them in a container of liquid in order to see if they would float. The theory behind the method, which was developed during the 17th century but has been questioned by modern medical experts, holds that if a lung does float, it means the baby drew at least one breath of air before expiring, and that if it sinks, the fetus was already dead by the time it left the womb. “It’s an absolutely discredited test”. The procedure, known as the “lung float test” or the “the hydrostatic test,” was carried out in this case by forensic pathologist Joseph Prahlow, a past president of the National Association of Medical Examiners. Prahlow, who declined to comment for this article, testified in court that the lung of the Patel fetus did indeed float, suggesting it was born alive and that its mother could have taken steps to keep it that way. Prahlow supplemented the evidence from the float test with other findings, testifying that the lungs looked full of air when he removed the fetus’s chest plate during the autopsy, that the air sacs in the lung tissue looked expanded when he looked at them under a microscope, and that the weight of the lungs—approximately 21 grams—was consistent with a live birth. Prahlow also testified that, according to his analysis, blood had started flowing to the lungs, which would have only happened after the baby had taken a breath. All those pieces of evidence surely played a part in convincing the jury in this case that Patel’s baby was born alive. But the lung float test stands out for its simplicity—a lung that floats means born alive, a lung that sinks means stillborn—and for how decisively it appears to answer one of the most complex questions that forensic pathologists face. It’s far from clear, however, that the test can be trusted. “It’s an absolutely discredited test,” said Gregory Davis, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Kentucky. “It boggles my mind that in the 21st century … this test is still being relied upon to determine whether a baby is born alive or dead.” Davis is not the only forensic pathologist who believes the float test is unreliable. The most recent edition of Knight’s Forensic Pathology, a widely used textbook, says “there are too many recorded instances when control tests have shown that stillborn lungs may float and the lungs from undoubtedly live-born infants have sunk, to allow it to be used in testimony in a criminal trial.” The authors of another textbook, Essentials of Forensic Medicine, called the test “pointless” in 1984. Davis, who is also the assistant state medical examiner for the commonwealth of Kentucky, said there are at least three reasons why a float test could yield inaccurate results, indicating the presence of air in the lungs even though the fetus never took a breath. The first is easiest to understand: If any attempt at resuscitation was made, either through mouth-to-mouth or chest compressions, that can introduce air into a lung, thus causing it to float even if the fetus was stillborn. The second has to do with decomposition: If the fetus has decomposed even a little bit, the lungs can fill with gas bubbles that would also result in the lung floating. Finally, Davis said, a fetus’s lungs can fill with air just by going through the vaginal canal, because pressure on the chest creates a “bellows effect.” Despite these inherent flaws in the test, its use persists."

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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


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Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;