State investigation clears Germantown abortion clinic -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated on May 28, 2013.

A state agency in charge of monitoring Maryland health care facilities found “no deficiencies” in its review of a controversial Germantown abortion clinic following the death of a New York woman who sought a late-term abortion at the facility.

The review by the Office of Health Care Quality, a division of Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was triggered by a complaint following the Feb. 7 death of Jennifer Morbelli, 29, after a procedure at the Germantown Reproductive Health Services clinic.

The investigation included reviews of medical records and policies, observations of procedures by doctors and interviews with staff, as well as a consultation with officials at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Heath and Mental Hygiene, Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein wrote in a letter Friday to two state legislators who chair committees with oversight for the department.

The letter updated Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Dist. 28) of Waldorf, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and Del. Peter Hammen (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore, who chairs the House Health and Government Operations Committee, on a larger review of facilities around the state that provide abortions.

Regulatory inspectors take numerous steps to make sure the proper rules are being followed at the clinics, including visits to the sites and interviews with staff, Sharfstein said Friday.

“There was nothing out of compliance,” at the Germantown clinic, he said.

Morbelli was pronounced dead at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital on Feb. 7 after a procedure at the clinic when she was reportedly 33 weeks pregnant.

The medical examiner’s office determined Morbelli died of natural causes, citing “disseminated intravascular coagulation,” “amniotic fluid embolism following a medical termination of pregnancy” and “fetal abnormalities” as contributing to the death.

The clinic declined to comment Friday.

The Maryland Coalition for Life has said Nebraska-based physician Dr. Leroy Carhart performed Morbelli’s abortion procedure and failed to provide follow-up care, and has called for Carhart’s medical license to be revoked.

Montgomery County police have never named the doctor who performed the procedure.

Carhart could not be reached for comment.

Maryland Coalition for Life Executive Director Michael Martelli said Tuesday that Sharfstein’s letter appeared to deal with the complaint filed with the Office of Health Care Quality, which deals specifically with the policies, procedures and operation of the clinic itself, rather than just the procedure on Morbelli.

Martelli said he was still waiting to hear back on the status of a complaint filed with the Maryland Board of Physicians.

The board could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

According to Sharfstein’s letter, his department has completed initial surveys of the 16 facilities licensed to perform abortions in Maryland, and 12 of the 16 have submitted plans to correct any problems found by the survey and are considered to be in compliance with regulations.

Clinics in Baltimore, Frederick, Landover and Silver Spring have had their licenses suspended.

rmarshall@gazette.net