Parents Sue Clinic Over Teen's Reaction to Morning-After Pill

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05pm EDT

( - The parents of a 16-year-old Philadelphia girl are suing the city's health department, asserting that their daughter had a violent reaction to a morning-after pill regimen that she allegedly was given without a medical exam. The parents also say they should have been notified that the drug had been prescribed for their daughter.

The lawsuit claims that Melissa Anspach suffered severe stomach pains, vomiting, a rash and a swollen face in January 2004 after taking the pills. The suit also alleges that Melissa was treated "under the false pretense that the pills will not terminate a pregnancy," only prevent pregnancy.

According to the suit, Maria Federova, a social worker at Philadelphia Health Care Center No. 10, spoke with the teen for 10 minutes about the "morning-after pill," sexually transmitted diseases and birth control, but failed to ask Melissa if her parents knew why she was at the center.

Melissa allegedly was told by a receptionist that she could not take a pregnancy test because it was not family planning day, a claim confirmed by Federova, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims Federova told Melissa that by taking the pills, she would prevent pregnancy, but at no time was Melissa advised about the risk of miscarriage or pregnancy termination if she was pregnant.

After checking Melissa's blood pressure and temperature, Mary Gilmore, a nurse on duty, is alleged to have told the teen to take four pills immediately and four more 12 hours later, according to the suit.

Before Melissa took the pills, Gilmore is said to have asked Dr. Jitendra Shah if the doctor wanted to examine Melissa, but Shah never entered the exam room, the lawsuit claims. It also alleges that Dr. Shah, who was listed as the person in charge of the pediatric ward on that day, only advised that Melissa down the pills with ginger ale.

About one hour after taking the second dose and falling asleep, the teen suffered a severe stomach ache and started to vomit, according to the suit. Kurt Anspach, who is Melissa's father and a trained EMT, claims he determined that his daughter had ingested the morning-after pill and took her to the emergency room. She was treated and released, but had to get more medical treatment the next day because of more bleeding, the suit alleges.

The Anspachs are seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the Philadelphia Department of Health from giving the "morning-after" pill to minors without first obtaining permission from the minor's parent and without first obtaining a doctor's prescription.

In addition to naming Federova, Gilmore and Shah, the lawsuit names the city of Philadelphia, the city's department of health, the health commissioner and the medical director of the health care center directly involved as defendants.

Melissa and her parents are also seeking compensatory damages totaling over $50,000, punitive damages in a reasonable sum, as well as attorneys' fees and other relief that the court deems just.

Deborah Bolling, a spokesman for Mayor John Street, said the city could not comment on a case that is currently in litigation.

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