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Clerk admits she sedated patients, changed dosage at murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor

  • mongar660.jpg

    This undated photo released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office shows Karnamaya Mongar, left, and her unidentified husband. (AP/Philadelphia District Attorney)

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    March 8, 2010: In this photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia.AP/Philadelphia Daily News

Five weeks into the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a woman who was trained only as a medical assistant testified that she administered anesthesia to patients when she worked with Gosnell at his Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia. 

The assistant, Latosha Lewis, also testified Wednesday that she would sometimes cut the dosages of anesthesia and painkillers after seeing patients she feared would not wake up from sedation.

Lewis, 31, said that she stopped assisting with abortions in 2008, but continued to give out medications in her role as clerk.

Gosnell is accused of the 2009 overdose death of a female patient and the deaths of seven babies, who were allegedly born alive. His lawyer, Jack McMahon, says there were no live births at the clinic and argues the woman died of unforeseen complications.

Gosnell could face the death penalty, if he is convicted, on seven counts of first-degree murder.

The prosecutors may rest their case Thursday.

The charges against Gosnell, 72, include the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old Virginia woman who died in 2009 after seeking an abortion at Gosnell’s clinic. On Tuesday, Mongar’s daughter, Yashoda Gurung, testified about the painkiller and labor-inducing drugs her mother was administered while awaiting Gosnell to arrive and perform a second-trimester abortion.

Gurung, 24, said through a Nepalese interpreter that she had tried to see her mother before she was moved into the procedure room on Nov. 19, 2009.

“My mom was sleeping,” Gurung told jurors. “That’s what I thought. I tried to wake her up and the lady said, ‘Leave her alone.’”

Prosecutors allege Gosnell’s untrained, unlicensed staff gave Mongar a fatal combination of oral and intravenous drugs and failed to properly monitor her vital signs. She went into cardiac arrest and a coma and died the following day. McMahon has countered that Mongar, who was 19 weeks pregnant at the time, had unreported respiratory damage and died of complications.

Damber Ghalley, Mongar’s brother, testified Tuesday he was told Mongar’s situation was “bad” when she arrived for the procedure. Ghalley said she spoke to Gosnell as she was being led to an ambulance.

“He said, 'The procedure was done,'” he told jurors. “Your sister’s heart stopped.”

Gosnell faces a third-degree murder charge in Mongar’s death.

Gosnell's co-defendant is also calling witnesses Thursday.

Eileen O'Neill, an unlicensed doctor, of Phoenixville, is charged with racketeering and theft for allegedly billing as a doctor.

On Thursday, a prosecution witness testified that she waited hours for "the doctor" to show at the clinic, then received two pills from O'Neill for a non-surgical abortion.

The woman said on cross-examination that she did not know if O'Neill consulted with a doctor that day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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