Two mothers are suing separate New Jersey hospitals over claims the poppy seed bagels they ate for breakfast triggered a false positive drug test and led to “traumatic” child abuse investigations.
The mothers, identified only as Kate L and Kaitlin K, filed the separate legal complaints last week, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ). They claimed the hospitals performed the drug tests without consent.
Both Kate and Kaitlin believe the poppy seed bagels, as well as the highly sensitive drug tests used by the medical institutions, are responsible for the false positive drug tests. They claimed Hackensack University Medical Center and Virtua Voorhees Hospital respectively violated their privacy as a result of the unauthorized tests.
The medical facilities have not responded publicly to the lawsuits, citing an inability to comment about ongoing litigation.
Both women were reported to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) for possibly abusing and neglecting their newborns. The report required the mothers to undergo questioning, home investigations and three months of drug testing.
Some medical experts believe it is possible for poppy seeds to cause a false positive, as they derive from the seedpod of the opium poppy. Though they are safe and legal for consumption, poppy seeds can absorb or become coated by opium extract. Opium is used to make morphine, codeine and heroin.
As per Kate’s complaint against Hackensack University Medical Center, she gave birth to her first child in September 2022.
“Unbeknownst to Kate, her breakfast that morning – a bagel with poppy seeds – would play a role in one of the most traumatic experiences of her life,” the lawsuit reads.
Kate claimed “everything” bagels, which contain poppy seeds, were part of her pregnancy cravings and that she ate one “two to three times each week.”
Her urine was collected by hospital staff without specific reason the day before she gave birth, according to the legal filing.
Kate claimed medical staff did not tell her of the positive drug test and held her baby for four days. She maintained that she had not taken any opiates.
“What should have been a joyous experience for Kate and her family caused serious and lasting emotional trauma that has shattered Kate’s trust in medical professionals and made her fear having another baby,” the lawsuit reads.
She claimed the hospital judged her as an “unfit mother before she even had the chance to be one.”
Kate allegedly requested a confirmatory drug test from the hospital but was denied.
The second lawsuit against Virtua Voorhees Hospital comes from Kaitlin, who reportedly gave birth to her second child in October 2022. Like Kate, she claimed she was asked to provide a urine sample with no explanation as to what it was for.
Shortly before giving birth, Kaitlin allegedly received a notification for the positive drug test in her MyChart app, a medical software used by some hospitals to transfer information to patients. She assumed the positive was an error, as she hadn’t taken any opiates, she said.
Authorities were sent to Kaitlin and her husband’s residence to speak to their seven-year-old son before she was allowed to be sent home from the hospital.
In the lawsuit, Kaitlin called the false positive drug test, and months of reactionary investigation from the state, “one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.”
In a statement, the ACLU-NJ, who filed the lawsuits on behalf of Kate and Kaitlin, said “the practice of drug testing pregnant patients violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy.”
The organization is seeking financial relief and the end of “this unlawful practice.” The statement implied “racial bias” played a role in the drug testing and reporting decisions, as “healthcare professionals are more likely to administer drug tests on pregnant Black women and their babies.”
“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,” the statement continues. “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.”
This year, the U.S. defense department released a warning to military members about poppy seeds and drug testing. Service members were asked not to eat poppy seeds — or foods containing poppy seeds — as it could “impact drug testing.”
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.