Fire official testifies Gosnell seemed "confused and discombobulated" during a 911 call

Posted: March 27, 2013

A Philadelphia fire lieutenant testified Monday that Dr. Kermit Gosnell seemed "confused and discombobulated" when firefighters answered a 911 call about a patient who died during an abortion.

Lt. Don Burgess told the jury hearing Gosnell's murder trial that firefighters arrived at 11:15 p.m., Nov. 19, 2009, outside the Women's Medical Society clinic, 3801 Lancaster Ave.

"We were perplexed when we responded to a clinic," Burgess testified. "What kind of clinic is open this late at night?"

Burgess said they were led through a "maze to a room where we found a female nude from the waist down and with her feet in stirrups."

A female worker and Gosnell were there but neither was doing anything, and there was no sign emergency resuscitation had been tried.

"The doctor was confused," Burgess said, responding to questions from Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron. "I asked him what happened, and he blurted out something I couldn't understand."

"I've got to tell the family what happened," Gosnell said, according to Burgess. "I'm going to bring the family back here to tell them what happened."

Burgess said he vetoed that idea as his paramedics continued working on the unresponsive woman.

Burgess' testimony was about the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, a Virginia woman recently arrived from Nepal, who went into a coma and died in a procedure to abort her 19-week pregnancy.

Gosnell, 72, is being tried in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court for third-degree murder in Mongar's death. Prosecutors say the petite woman was given too much anesthesia by Gosnell's untrained staff.

Gosnell is also charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of newborns whose spines he snipped with scissors after late-term abortions. He faces the death penalty if the jury finds him guilty.

Also on trial is Eileen O'Neill, 52, of Phoenixville, an unlicensed medical school graduate, who worked as a doctor in Gosnell's clinic. She is not charged with performing abortions.

Prosecutors called Burgess and state Health Department nurse Elinor Barsony to discuss conditions inside Gosnell's clinic.

Burgess told the jury that the clinic hallways - carved out of three or four buildings - were so narrow it was impossible to use a stretcher to take Mongar to the hospital.

An emergency door was a few steps from the procedure room, Burgess said, but it was chained and padlocked, and neither Gosnell nor his staff had the key.

Burgess said he ordered firefighters to open the door with a bolt-cutter. Mongar later died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Barsony testified about the night of Feb. 18, 2010, when she accompanied a federal-state task force raiding the clinic as part of a drug investigation.

Barsony said she was asked along to assess the condition of any patients they found. She said she found five women in a recovery room, though none had yet had abortions.

One was sedated and sleeping, two others were chatting, and two were moaning loudly complaining of cramps and pain.

Barsony said that the women were not connected to devices measuring their vital signs and that just one employee was there.

The clinic equipment seemed old and dirty, and Barsony said she questioned whether it worked.

Ultimately, Barsony ordered two of the women taken to a hospital. But like the evening of Mongar's death two years earlier, Barsony said the emergency door was chained and locked.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joeslobo.

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