2 women sue New Jersey hospitals for unnecessary drug tests

Two new mothers filed complaints with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights after they were drug tested without their knowledge or consent and then reported for neglect or abuse based on the positive test results.

The filing alleged that Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center and Virtua Voorhees (N.J.) Hospital gave the drug tests without medical necessity and violated the state's discrimination laws based on sex and pregnancy, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is representing the two women, said in a March 8 news release. They ask the state to investigate and require both hospitals to end the practice.

Both women consumed bagels with poppy seeds before going to the hospital to give birth. Their tests came back positive for opiates, and hospital staff called child protective services to report the women for possible abuse or neglect of their newborn. An investigation was launched that "interfered with their first months with their newborns, shattered their trust in medical personnel, and caused fear of further unnecessary scrutiny from the state," according to the release. 

The threshold used in the drug test was lower than federal guidelines, the release said; in one woman's case, the test used a threshold 200 times lower. 

"No one should be subjected to unnecessary and nonconsensual drug tests. Our clients are sending a clear message to hospitals that these testing and reporting policies are unacceptable," ACLU-NJ staff attorney Molly Linhorst said in the release. "Discriminatory testing policies like these upend what should be a time of joy for families and so often subject them to further trauma and unwarranted investigation by the state."

Representatives from both Hackensack University Medical Center and Virtua Voorhees Hospital told CBS News in a March 24 report that they declined to comment on the lawsuit.

"As a health system dedicated to providing safe, comprehensive, and equitable care to the community, we are fully committed to reviewing this matter," the hospital said in a statement shared with the news outlet.

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