I haven’t read many grand-jury reports, but I’ve read or perused a few. But not enough to feel like I can say I know what a typical grand-jury report reads like. Having now read the Gosnell grand-jury report, I must say I’m extremely impressed with how well-written it is. Yes, the underlying facts are horrifying and disgusting. But it reads like some of the best journalism. Is that typical?
Anyway, you can see what I mean. Here’s the opening overview:
This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we
mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester
of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with
scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in
which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among
them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two
occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that
something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
Let us say right up front that we realize this case will be used by those on both
sides of the abortion debate. We ourselves cover a spectrum of personal beliefs about the
morality of abortion. For us as a criminal grand jury, however, the case is not about that
controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of
mothers and infants. We find common ground in exposing what happened here, and in
recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
The “Women’s Medical Society”
That was the impressive-sounding name of the clinic operated in West
Philadelphia, at 38th and Lancaster, by Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D. Gosnell seemed
impressive as well. A child of the neighborhood, Gosnell spent almost four decades
running this clinic, giving back – so it appeared – to the community in which he
continued to live and work.
But the truth was something very different, and evident to anyone who stepped 2
inside. The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam
(and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were
not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were
reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the
pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it
wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in
cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal
remains. It was a baby charnel house.
Again: Horrifying and disgusting don’t remotely cover it. But that is compelling writing.