Mom Loses Custody of Newborn for 5 Days Thanks to Poppy Seed Bagel

OMG 211

In April of 2010, Elizabeth Mort ate a poppy seed bagel shortly before arriving at the hospital where she gave birth to her daughter. Sounds like a decent enough pre-labor snack, right? Carbs for energy and all that?  Mort gave birth to a healthy newborn named Isabella, and three days later, she was at home with her daughter when child service officials arrived with an emergency protective custody order. They took Mort's brand new baby girl, alleging that Mort had tested positive for drugs while in the hospital.

As it turned out, the poppy seeds on Mort's bagel had triggered a false positive in the drug test. But it took officials five days to figure out the problem and allow Elizabeth Mort to regain custody of her own child.

Mort won a decent settlement from Pennsylvania child welfare services and her hospital this week for the incident, but as far as I'm concerned, she wasn't awarded NEARLY enough money for what she went through.

Mort gave birth at Jameson Hospital, where at some point during the labor/recovery process, she was given a drug test. She says at no point was she told that she'd failed the test, nor was she asked about anything she'd eaten that could affect the results -- in fact, the hospital never notified her about her test results at all. They went straight to child welfare services in Pennsylvania, who swooped in three days later to take the newborn.

It's not uncommon for poppy seeds to trigger false positives in drug tests with low thresholds for opiate detection, which is why federal standards set the minimum detection rate at 2,000 nanograms per milliliter. For whatever reason, Mort's hospital had a different detection rate: a minimum of 300 nanograms. That's why Mort's bagel affected her test -- but it certainly doesn't explain why the hospital asked no questions before calling child welfare.

In October 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mort, which read in part,

Elizabeth Mort never imagined that the last thing she ate before giving birth to her daughter -- a poppy seed bagel -- would lead to the loss of her newborn, but that is exactly what happened after the Jameson Health System failed to account for the possibility that her positive urine drug screen was due to her ingestion of poppy seeds.

The lawsuit was finally settled this Tuesday, and Mort was awarded over $143,000. I'm not sure any amount of money can make up for what she must have gone through during those five days, though. Can you even begin to imagine experiencing a scenario like this? Where out of nowhere, officials come knocking on your door and straight-up take your newborn away?

The hospital and county have reportedly implemented policy changes so newborns aren’t taken from parents based only on maternal drug tests, and I hope other hospitals are taking note of this lawsuit and considering their own policies. I don't remember getting any drug tests when my boys were born, but god, maybe they did it without asking me? Frankly, the practice of drug-testing women seems incredibly invasive and unfair (did DAD get a drug test too?).

Also, I don't know about you, but just to be on the safe side, I'd avoid those delicious 'everything' bagels if you're planning on giving birth any time soon.

Did you get a drug test when you gave birth? What would you have done if child welfare showed up with a custody order a few days later? Other than GO COMPLETELY INSANE, I mean.


Image via Clintus/Flickr

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Barbie Turner Smoot

I'd be getting more than $143,000 thats what I'd be doing...this is the most insane thing I have heard...that mother will NEVER get those 5 days with her newborn back....I can't imagine what she went thru.....

antfa... antfarmer101

I was never asked to submit to a drug test for either of my children's births and if I had found out at any later date that the hospital had done one without my knowledge, I would own a wing (even though I would have passed with flying colors). I don't care what the reasons for suspicion of drug use are, you DO NOT do any medical tests on a person without their knowledge. For any reason, ever, ever, ever. If you suspect drug use and a person refuses the test, then you go through other legal measures to get the test done. You cannot compensate this woman for this nightmare

Melis... Melissa1508

I agree 100%!  Wow, what a horrible time for this poor mom!  New moms are already freaked out, stressed, exhausted...now add this on top of that!  I would have been absolutely insane. 

Felip... FelipesMom

I'm not sure I even agree with the policy of taking a woman's newborn away from her after one positive result. How about a second test, or hauling her back tot he hospital so she can be monitored, or twice-daily visits from social workers, or SOME intermediate step before taking the baby away?! This is not a half-grown kid, this is a NEWBORN. Five days with your mom is invaluable at that stage of life.


And kudos to the commenter that asked if DAD got a drug test!! The only reason I can see to test moms more than dads is if mom is breastfeeding, because the drug would get passed to the baby. But that is certainly not the only reason to want a baby to have drug-free parents - parentS, plural!

Felip... FelipesMom

(PS I meant all that on top of the other serious errors the hospital made, like not checking with mom about what she had eaten, having a low detection threshhold, etc)

nonmember avatar blh

Wow, shitty. Though it reminds me of that Seinfeld episode, ha. Felipesmom, taking away an older child would be way more traumatic than taking away a newborn. At that stage, they really don't care who they're with as long as someone's caring for them.

Bryce... Brycesmommy21

The hospital does not tell you they drug test you first off. My sister failed a drug test as well while having her son. She asked first off when did they give her the test, they said there is a detector in the toilet when you pee. And the reason they said she failed was the day before giving birth she went to the hospital for a broken wrist and the hospital gave her morphine. The nurse wrote down in her file she gave her morphine but never entered it into the computer. So after the drug test picked up on it they did question her. They did ask her if she took anything for the broken wrist and she mentioned the hospital gave her morphine, first they said she was lying because it was not noted in the computer, until they looked in the actual file they realized it was their mistake.

SASSI... SASSIELADIE

I have heard tha poppy seeds will give a false positive on a drug test which is why I stay the hell away from them.  I am sure this mother was horrified to loose her child after birth over this stupid mess.  The hospital was so quick to judge her without speaking to her...DAMN SHAME! 

BillieJean Sipes

This article disgusts me on so many levels! I never had a drug test with either of my children so I wonder what made this woman so special... I breastfeed both of my children and if that's what this mother was aiming to do her plans have been undermined! Especially since she is beaten up from the birthing experience and now has to go five days without her baby based on an inacurate drug test! 

nonmember avatar Cjewell

Believe it or not most to all pregnant women are drug tested at some point during the pregnancy or at the hospital before birth. I have one child and was sent to the hospital for no fluid to be admitted.I was sent with a sealed envelope with my paper work.I opened it after all it was mine.It had down all my info my visits my meds etc.. And them I noticed it said "drug test -negative".



They also collect the baby's first bowel movement and do another drug test. They can determine if you took any drug after 17 weeks if pregnancy till the time your child was born. They did this with my child as well.

They never asked me to consent or what they were doing they just told me to call them if she went anymore so they could come collect it.



All this is to protect the baby you are carrying some people lie and it's important to know if any illegal substance was taking during the pregnancy in case the child has problems & so the doctors and nurses can be prepared to take care of the baby and make sure they are ready for anything.

Such as withdrawals or breathing problems.

So they are only looking out for the welfare of the child.



No one likes their privacy invaded but I can assure you this has saved lives.

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