BANGOR, Maine — Lorraine Morin told an eight-member jury on Monday that she still has nightmares and relives the trauma of delivering her dead son in the bathroom of her Millinocket home three years ago after being discharged from Eastern Maine Medical Center.
“It was a living nightmare, every second of it,” she said of the day she was sent home.
Morin is suing the hospital in U.S. District Court in Bangor, claiming that doctors violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act when they sent her home in July 2007. The law prevents a hospital from discharging a patient who is in an emergency medical condition, even if the person is uninsured.
The Morins are asking for unspecified damages in the civil action.
Morin testified that she was experiencing cramping and pain and went to the emergency room at EMMC at around 4:30 a.m. July 1, 2007.
After an ultrasound performed by Dr. Paul Reinstein and an ultrasound and pelvic examination performed by Dr. Robert Grover, it was determined that the 16-week-old male fetus she was carrying had died, according to testimony by the parents.
Grover, an obstetrician at EMMC, told her “that I was not dilated enough and that he was discharging me — sending me home,” Morin testified. “I was terrified. I was still having abdominal pain.”
Morin also testified that Grover “said there was nothing he could do” and to “let nature take its course.”
The Millinocket woman’s medical history had included two live births, one by cesarean section; a previous miscarriage and treatment for cervical cancer. In May, she successfully gave birth to a baby girl, according to testimony. Morin was a certified nurse’s aide at the time and was studying to be a registered nurse through the University of Maine at Augusta program. She currently works as an emergency room nurse at St. Joseph Hospital.
Attorney George Schelling, who is representing the hospital, said in his opening statement that EMMC doctors did what they could for Morin and told her when they discharged her to return to the hospital if her condition worsened.
Grover “explained to her that she was not ready to pass the fetus,” and “he felt, under the circumstances, that it was safe for her to go home,” Schelling said.
The doctor also told her “if anything changes, get back here,” he said.
Morin didn’t call or return to the Bangor hospital and ended up delivering her dead fetus at home that evening.
“It is very sad that she had this process in her bathroom,” Schelling said.
Attorney A.J. Greif, who is representing Morin, called Roger Morin, Lorraine Morin’s husband, as his first witness. Roger Morin testified that Reinstein did an ultrasound on his then-girlfriend.
“He said, ‘There is no heartbeat’ and ‘it doesn’t look good,’” Roger Morin said. Morin said the news that his son, who the couple had named Roger, was dead was “horrible.”
Grover was called in and did a second ultrasound and the pelvic exam, Roger Morin said.
“He confirmed the baby had passed,” he said. “He mentioned that there wasn’t much he could do.”
When the doctors told the couple the hospital was discharging Lorraine Morin, Roger Morin said he asked what he should do if the fetus was delivered at home.
“He mentioned that I should dispose of my baby,” Roger Morin said, adding that was when “I said that maybe we ought to take care of this business at the hospital.”
He also said he got upset when the hospital discharge went forward and he raised his voice. He testified that a nurse and Reinstein told him to calm down or security would be called.
“We were told to leave and threatened with security to force us to leave,” Roger Morin said.
Schelling said in his opening statement that no mention of the need for security is mentioned in Morin’s medical record.
“That absolutely did not happen,” he said.
Lorraine Morin cried quietly during her husband’s testimony.
During her testimony, she said, “I personally told him [Reinstein] I cannot do this. I cannot do this at home.”
Lorraine Morin said she didn’t return to EMMC because of the experience earlier in the day.
“We didn’t feel welcome there,” she said. “We didn’t leave on very good terms.”
She was discharged at around 6 a.m. and delivered the dead fetus at around 9 p.m. Greif gently walked her through the story of her delivery in her Millinocket bathroom, and her testimony was sometimes so quiet she could barely be heard in the courtroom.
After the fetus was delivered, “I put my son in a box,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with him.” She spent the rest of the night pacing her house, holding the box, she said.
The next morning, she called her baby doctor, Dr. Pamela Gilmore, who immediately admitted her into EMMC for surgery to stop her bleeding and to remove the remaining placenta.
Dr. Gilmore and Annette O’Brien, a nurse for the last 36 years in New York, also testified, and parts of a deposition by Dr. Gregory Gimball were read in court. O’Brien testified that she believed Morin was in labor when she was discharged from the hospital. Gimball’s testimony regarded the available treatment options, which he said included surgery, drugs to aid the birthing process or extraction of the fetus.
U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock explained to the two-man, six-woman jury just before opening statements that Morin must demonstrate that she had an emergency medical condition, that the hospital discharged her before her emergency medical condition was stabilized, and that sending her home could have resulted in physical or emotional harm.
“Lorraine Morin claims that Eastern Maine Medical Center failed or refused to stabilize her condition before discharging her,” he said.
The jury is tasked with determining whether EMMC medical staff knew Morin was in labor and was suffering from an emergency medical condition that required stabilization, Woodcock said.
Morin said she began having nightmares soon after delivering her dead son and they continue, but are far less frequent.
They start with “me in the bathroom, just waiting,” she testified. “In dreams, there is no pain.”
Morin was being cross-examined when testimony ended on Monday. She is expected to take the stand again on Tuesday.