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Sandra Powell

Sandra Powell

Plaintiff Sandra Powell was referred by her local prenatal care provider to MUSC in late spring 1989. On October 13, 1989, Ms. Powell went into labor. She was taken by ambulance to MUSC where she gave birth immediately upon arrival. The following morning, Nurse Shirley Brown informed Ms. Powell that her urine had tested positive for cocaine and that she would be arrested immediately for unlawful neglect of a child. Wearing only a hospital gown, open at the back, and still bleeding, Ms. Powell was handcuffed and wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair. Still in pain, she was brought to a holding cell where she was kept for five hours, without sanitary napkins or a change of clothing. She was later handcuffed, shackled and brought to a larger facility and then to a bond hearing where bail was set at $10,000. Ms. Powell's mother used insurance money she had obtained after Hurricane Hugo destroyed her home to post bail.

"I said please, what could I do to stop this . . . could you help me . . . what is going on . . . and she [Nurse Brown] just said you will be locked up. And I said could I at least call my family to bring me some clothes. And she said you can make a call but you will be locked up . . . I just had a baby, I was still bleeding, I was still in pain . . . before that day was over I was in jail . . . I felt so ashamed because I [didn't] know what I had done for them to treat me like that."

Despite nursing notes indicating that Ms. Powell "desires to be free of addiction to cocaine" and was "accepting of information," Ms. Powell was not offered any drug treatment before she was arrested. She was never told that she was to be subject to a urine drug screen, nor was she ever informed that her test results and other confidential patient information would be turned over to the police.