Planned Parenthood clinics not regulated by Colorado health and medical standards

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Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), which currently faces a lawsuit in Colorado for malpractice and health standard violations, is not licensed or regulated as a health clinic under Colorado state policy. A Media Trackers investigation has revealed and PPRM has confirmed that while individual PPRM doctors and nurses are certified at the state level, the clinics themselves meet only federal-level standards and regulation dating back to the 1980s.

Planned Parenthood Clinic SignThe malpractice suit was filed against PPRM by Colorado Springs resident Ayanna Byer last month. Byer, whose complaint included a total of six charges, alleged that she was forced to undergo an abortion at a local clinic without proper anesthetic after asking doctors not to go through with the procedure. Byer’s specific reports of battery and negligence are listed in her Complaint and Jury Demand against a PPRM physician identified in the complaint as “Dr. John Doe.”

Byer’s allegations have raised red flags about Planned Parenthood’s licensing and health standards, as well as its medical procedures and practices.

While standard health care and outpatient surgical clinics in the state fall under the authority of the Health Facilities division of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for regular licensing and regulation, Planned Parenthood clinics are not held to the same standard. When contacted by Media Trackers to verify Planned Parenthood’s clinical licensing and regulation in the the state of Colorado, the Health Affairs division confirmed that PPRM clinics do not fall under the Department of Health and Environment’s oversight and that they were unaware of who in the state government does provide such oversight.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains informed Media Trackers that its physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, “… maintain licenses and certifications in keeping with the requirements of the Colorado State Medical Board, the Board of Nursing, the Board of Pharmacy, and their individual certifying organizations.”

When asked for specific state licensing and regulation, Planned Parenthood was able to mention only certain federal compliance and authority for its clinics: “[Our] health centers operate in accordance with OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulations[.] … We also must meet the federal standards known as CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments).”

However, The Food and Drug Administration explains these standards cover only laboratory testing: “Congress passed the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) in 1988 establishing quality standards for all laboratory testing to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of patient test results regardless of where the test was performed.” The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) confirms that CLIA addresses only “laboratory testing (except research) performed on humans in the United States[.]”

The only state-level oversight Colorado Planned Parenthood clinics receive appears to be from the Colorado State Board of Pharmacy, which simply licenses each Planned Parenthood location as a pharmacy outlet.

Though PPRM claims that its individual physicians and nurses are in compliance with the requirements of the Colorado State Medical Board, Byer’s complaint charges that the doctor(s) who performed her abortion did not follow the basic standards or procedures defined and enforced by the medical board.

According to the board’s “Office-Based Surgery and Anesthesia” policy, “[t]he surgeon must evaluate and discuss the risks and benefits of the surgical procedure with the patient and obtain informed consent from the patient.” The policy guidance goes on to state that “[a]dditionally, the surgeon and qualified anesthesia provider must assess the patient before surgery to evaluate the risk of anesthesia.”

Byer claimed that the attending physician began the procedure before an anesthetic was administered, and continued without anesthesia after Byer asked to stop.

Within Byer’s Complaint and Jury Demand, as reported by Media Trackers, Byer admits that she consented to the abortion only with the promised anesthetic: “Upon Plaintiff’s condition that she would receive anesthesia for pain through an I.V. for which Plaintiff would pay an additional fee, Plaintiff agreed to surgical abortion.”

However, PPRM allegedly did not respect the policy to delay the procedure until the patient was under anesthesia: “… before the I.V. was inserted and before the Plaintiff received any anesthesia, the Planned Parenthood Doctor began the procedure to abort the pregnancy.”

This alleged lack of concern for the patient’s health and comfort resulted in a series of painful consequences. Byer suffered through a seven-minute abortion procedure without anesthetic and was then told that no follow-up visit was necessary. After weeks of continued pain, Byer finally visited the emergency room, where it was revealed that part of the child was left inside her and that a bad infection had ensued. This led to both battery and negligence charges against the Planned Parenthood doctor, as well as uninformed consent, false imprisonment, extreme and outrageous conduct, and breach of fiduciary duty charges.

Though PPRM clinics are not regulated by Colorado medical standards or licensing beyond pharmaceutical regulations, the organization has received millions of dollars in direct aid from the state. In 2012 alone, PPRM was paid $2.7 million by various state-level agencies, including over $500,000 from the Department of Health and Environment, the same branch that was unable to cite any state level licensing or regulation of Planned Parenthood in Colorado. Other governmental departments funding Colorado Planned Parenthood in 2012 include the Department of Education, the Justice Department, and the Department of Healthcare Policy and Finance.

Note: This article first appeared at Media Trackers and is reprinted with permission.

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