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Hanford Hospital Settles With State AG in Controversial Stillbirth Cases
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By Edward Smith
Published 1 month ago on
June 20, 2024

Adventist Health Hanford agreed to pay $10,000 for providing medical records on two pregnant woman who had stillbirths without requiring a warrant. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Adventist Health Hanford has settled with the California Attorney General’s Office over accusations the hospital gave law enforcement medical records on two pregnant women without requiring warrants.

“As we have said repeatedly, the wrongful imprisonments of both women due to unauthorized health disclosures to law enforcement were unlawful.” — California AG Rob Bonta

Two stillbirths at the hospital — one in 2019 and one in 2017 — resulted in murder charges for two women after staff provided police with the state of the fetuses and the patients’ alleged drug use, according to a news release.

The cases attracted national attention as critics said that then-Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes had no business filing murder charges. In June 2022, Fagundes lost his reelection bid to challenger Sarah Hacker.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said the hospital violated privacy laws by giving the information without proper oversight from the courts.

Adventist agreed to pay $10,000 and train employees about handling patient information.

“No woman should be penalized for the loss of her pregnancy,” Bonta said in a news release on Wednesday. “As we have said repeatedly, the wrongful imprisonments of both women due to unauthorized health disclosures to law enforcement were unlawful.”

One Woman Served Four Years for Manslaughter, Another 16 months

In December 2017, after Adora Perez had a stillbirth at Adventist, law enforcement got her medical information before getting a warrant. Three hours after acquiring the records, law enforcement was in her hospital room asking her to authorize the release of her records.

Shortly after, the Kings County District Attorney charged Perez with murder for her alleged drug use during her pregnancy. Perez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

In March 2022, the Kings County Superior Court granted a motion to vacate, overturning her conviction. Perez ultimately spent four years in jail.

After Chelsea Becker’s September 2019 stillbirth, medical staff at Adventist also unlawfully disclosed her medical records. Becker was also arrested and charged with murder for her drug use. Becker spent 16 months in jail before a trial court dismissed her case.

Adventist Staff to Train on Protecting Medical Records

Part of the settlement includes revising the hospital’s standards on divulging medical records.

In addition to clarifying when records can be given to law enforcement without patient consent, the hospital agreed to report any unauthorized disclosures to the Attorney General’s office.

The cases of the Kings County women prompted Bonta in September 2022 to issue a legal alert that a specific California law protecting pregnant women — the one used to charge both Becker and Perez — cannot be used to hold women criminally liable for causing a stillbirth or miscarriage.

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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