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Archive 1998 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

SOBER STUDENTS GET LESSON ON DRUNK DRIVING

Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA)

June 7, 1998

Rebecca Dorschel’s eyes flew open and her body tensed as the car swung wide and slammed to a stop, dragging an orange cone along with it.

Rebecca, 15, was a backseat passenger in a car driven by her cousin, Joel Webb,. She had ridden with Joel before, but never on a ride like this one where everything felt out of control.

Rebecca and Joel were two of the hundreds of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy upper school students who experienced, firsthand but in total safety, a drive with a drunk driver.

The frightening but enlightening rides were in the Drunk Driving Simulator, a 1996 Dodge Neon that the Chrysler Corporation has modified with an on-board computer programmed to delay the car’s steering and braking response time, simulating the slowed abilities of a driver under the influence.

“It felt really weird when the brakes weren’t working at all and the steering locked up so I couldn’t control it,” Joel said.

“And he is normally a very good driver,” Rebecca added loyally.

The Simulator was developed in 1988 to allow sober drivers, and passengers, to experience the dangers of drinking and driving while on a controlled course with a trained instructor in the car. The instructor enters the driver’s weight and the number of hypothetical drinks needed to reach a blood alcohol level of approximately .13 to .15 and the computer takes over. A blood alcohol level of .08 is the legal limit in Virginia.

A separate kill brake allows the instructor to disengage the computer or shut down the engine when necessary.

Kerry Dunaway, Simulator instructor, said that his wisecracks and the upbeat music that filled the parking lot are all intended to make the experience a fun, but memorable one. The nervous laughter and joking around that he normally hears from the teens turns to serious thought after they have knocked down a few pop-up pedestrians along the course.

“I love this job because it gives you an opportunity to maybe make a change in someone’s life,” he said.

It took an entire year for NSA’s 75-member SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) club to bring the Simulator to the Academy, but their timing was good. Spring partying for proms and graduations makes the “don’t drink and drive” lessons most relevant.

“Overall I find that teenagers are receptive and responsible, more so than the adults,” Dunaway said.

Joel agreed, noting that most of the NSA students understand the importance of a designated driver.

Karen Konefal, a parent volunteer who helped register students to drive or ride in the Simulator, has a son and daughter in the school.

“You can talk to them until you are blue in the face but it is not like actually driving like you are out of control,” she said. “Hopefully this way they will remember to anticipate and not get caugt in the moment of a bad situation.”

Caption:
Staff photos by MICHAEL KESTNER
Sarah Smith is all smiles at the wheel of the Drunk Driving
Simulator, but her back seat passenger looks a little apprehensive.

Yikes! A student driver nails a pylon on a tight turn while
operating the Drunk Driving Simulator.

Memo:
Statistics drive home need to stay sober when driving

Mike Goodove, a Norfolk attorney whose brother was killed by a drunk driver in Charlottesville eight years ago, is also president of the South Side MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD is a supporter of the Simulator program. Goodove quoted the following statistics for 1996, the most recent available:

In Virginia in 1996 there were 7206 drivers under 21 involved in crashes. Alcohol was a factor in 346 of those.

Of the 3427 drivers under 21 involved in crashes in which there were personal injuries, 183 were alcohol impaired.

Overall, 39.8 percent of all traffic fatalities in Virginia that year were alcohol related.

Copyright (c) 1998 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9806050302

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Archive 1998 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Beach puts brakes on police chases now officers can’t pursue non-violent fleeing criminal

Police Chief Charles R. Wall has banned all police pursuits in the city except for cases involving violent felons armed with guns.

The order, effective immediately, could eliminate nearly all police chases using motor vehicles, officers said Thursday. Police officers can no longer pursue drunken drivers, car thieves, burglars or other non-violent criminals who flee, according to the new order.

The June 2 memo from Wall was distributed to officers Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Some officers still had not seen the memo as of late Thursday. A copy was given to The Virginian-Pilot.

No other Hampton Roads jurisdiction has such a strict pursuit policy. The new order will affect other jurisdictions that chase fleeing motorists into Virginia Beach. Wall said those officers will be allowed to continue a hot pursuit in Virginia Beach, but they would not get help from his department’s officers unless the pursuit was justified under the new criteria.

The order is an interim step. Department officials are rewriting the pursuit policy, and the city’s officers will be given a chance to comment on a draft of the proposed orders. But Wall said he expects the final orders to be similar to the interim policy.

The new order is a sharp departure from the former policy, which allowed officers discretion as to when to begin a pursuit. The Police Department has in recent years allowed officers more latitude to aggressively halt fleeing motorists. Officers have been trained to use tire-deflating spikes and to box in fleeing vehicles with rolling roadblocks.

Also, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision made it very difficult for citizens to sue police in federal court for damages or injuries resulting from pursuits.

Wall said it was the safety of the community, and not the Supreme Court decision, that guided him.

“I am very concerned, as you should be, about the dangers inherent in police pursuits of vehicles,” Wall said in the memo. “The conflict between our efforts to protect the lives of citizens . . . and engaging in high-speed pursuits through city streets should be obvious.”

The new order will allow a pursuit only when an officer believes a car’s occupant or occupants have used a gun or a bomb to commit, or to try to commit, a violent felony.

“All other pursuits are prohibited,” the memo said.

Wall said Thursday the decision to curtail pursuits wasn’t taken lightly. He and others studied the pursuit policies of jurisdictions in at least seven states. They also consulted with national experts on police pursuits.

The chief said, after the review, he and his staff determined a more restrictive policy will be safer for the public and the police officers.

The new rules come against a backdrop of several controversial police pursuits in Virginia Beach, including some that have killed innocent people.

On Jan. 21, 1995, a drunken driver eluded police for 15 miles before the van he was driving slammed into a sports car in Norfolk and killed two people. Although state police had taken over the pursuit, the chase started in Virginia Beach. That chase would not be allowed now.

On March 25, 1997, Bruce V. Quagliato led police on a low-speed pursuit that ended when his car and at least two police cars collided on Independence Boulevard. He died after several police officers shot him, thinking he was armed. He wasn’t.

Twice in 1997, motorcyclists being chased for traffic or equipment infractions died after crashing at high speeds. Neither pursuit would be allowed now.

On Feb. 6, police said a 14-year-old girl was driving a stolen car when she sped from a police officer on Shore Drive. She and a companion survived a crash that killed an innocent motorist, 56-year-old Michael Boynton, a retired Navy SEAL and war hero. That pursuit would not be allowed today.

On March 14, five teen-agers in a stolen car crashed after trying to elude police. The car’s driver and one passenger, both 14, died. That pursuit would not be allowed today.

“We considered (these crashes) and we considered the danger to our officers,” Wall said. “We have looked at this for quite a while.”

Mary Boynton, wife of the man killed by the 14-year-old car thief, said Thursday she never blamed the police because they were doing their job. She said she instead blames the teen-agers who stole a car and killed her husband.

The new policy drew mixed reactions.

“I think it is great. It is something they should’ve done a long time ago,” said attorney Jim McKenry, who represents Quagliato’s family. Quagliato was shot to death at the end of a police pursuit when he refused to comply with officers’ orders. Under a strict interpretation of the new policy, a similar pursuit would not be initiated now.

His client “would still be alive and well,” McKenry said. Quagliato’s family is suing the city for $5 million.

But Mike Goodove, president of Southside MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he is concerned about any policy that could hamper police from aggressive DUI enforcement. Under this policy, police can’t chase a drunken driver who flees.

“The Virginia Beach Police Department should first of all be applauded for its efforts to combat impaired driving,” he said. “We would certainly interpret impaired driving as a violent offense because of the potential injuries and death the drunk driver would cause. Because an impaired driver poses a serious threat to others on the roadway, the proposed policy change to ban pursuits, with respect to drunk driving, gives us some concern.

“We are confident that the Virginia Beach police department will allow its officers to remove impaired drivers from the roadway while protecting the safety of those on the road,” Goodove said.

Lillian DeVenny, state president of Virginians Opposing Drunk Driving, said she can see both sides of the issue. An advocate for stringent police enforcement of DUI, she also knows a family whose son was killed in a police pursuit.

“In a way, (the new policy) angers me, but I have had ambivalent feelings on that matter for quite some time,” she said. “I feel the police officers have been doing their jobs as best as they can, but when I look at the other side of the coin, and see the victims of pursuits, I have second thoughts.”

The city’s new policy represents exactly the kinds of police guidelines that Wyoming-based STOPP, or Solutions to Tragedies of Police Pursuit, lobbies for. That group studies police pursuits and ways to reduce them.

“That is wonderful,” said STOPP’s Jeff Maceiko of the Virginia Beach policy. “We don’t want them to ban all pursuits, per se, but we do want to ban all except for the pursuits of violent felons. This exactly what we want.”

Several police officers contacted Thursday said the new policy will limit their effectiveness, and it may cause more motorists to run because they know the police won’t chase. They said drunken drivers, unlicensed drivers and other criminals would probably take the chance to escape. Many officers said only law-abiding drivers would stop for them now.

Wall said he doesn’t think that will happen.

“Every place we have looked that has similar policies, we found that simply has not been the case,” Wall said. “They reported that was not the result.”

Before Thursday, the decision to chase a suspect was left to the individual officer. The officer would have to consider, among other things, the risks involved, the severity of the offense, and the possibility of catching the motorist at a later time. Now, most of that discretion is eliminated.

“While none of us likes the thought of letting someone go who has committed a violation and compounded that by fleeing when we signal them to stop,” the memo said, “the overriding factor guiding all of our actions must be our concern for the safety of the officers involved and the citizens of the community, as well as the violators themselves.”

One of the city’s police-union representatives, Officer Bobby Mathieson, said his organization doesn’t yet have an opinion on the new policy.

“We welcome the public input on this,” he said. “The public should be a big part of this, to see if they support (the new rules), or if they don’t.”

Although the Supreme Court has granted police departments more protection, Virginia Beach is one of many agencies across the country adopting more restrictive pursuit policies.

Authorities in Florida said Hampton Roads fugitive Carl Douglas Consolvo outran a police officer because the Miami Shores Police Department doesn’t allow pursuits. Federal authorities said Consolvo then continued his crime spree, which included a wave of bank robberies and the shooting of a Utah police officer.

But even though police may sometimes fail to catch criminals, no-pursuit policies could save more than 100 innocent lives a year, advocates said.

In 1996, the latest year for which complete national statistics are available, 377 deaths resulted from police pursuits. Of those deaths, 111 were innocent third parties. The remaining 266 were in the fleeing cars.

Some states have tried to quell the number of police pursuits. Some of those efforts have targeted the motorists, and some have curbed the police.

Oregon lawmakers, for example, made it a felony instead of a misdemeanor to run from police. Other state lawmakers, like those in Delaware, are trying to craft statewide pursuit policies that all municipalities must follow.

Wall said the final version of revised orders could be approved and in place by next month.

More on PILOT ONLINE: Do you agree with the restrictions on Virginia Beach police pursuits? Cast an instant-poll vote and tell your reasoning in TalkNet at

http://www.pilotonline.com

Caption:
[Color photo]
[Police car]
< Graphic What it means to you: For complete copy, see microfilm Copyright (c) 1998 The Virginian-Pilot Record Number: 9806050663

Categories
Archive 1998 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Beach puts brakes on police chases now officers can’t pursue non-violent fleeing criminal

Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA)

Author: MIKE MATHER, STAFF WRITER

The Virginia Beach Police Department’s new pursuit policy will allow pursuits for cases involving violent crimes against people, or for crimes involving guns or bombs. A headline in Friday’s newspaper only referred to the violent crimes.

Police Chief Charles R. Wall has banned all police pursuits in the city except for cases involving violent felons armed with guns.

The order, effective immediately, could eliminate nearly all police chases using motor vehicles, officers said Thursday. Police officers can no longer pursue drunken drivers, car thieves, burglars or other non-violent criminals who flee, according to the new order.

The June 2 memo from Wall was distributed to officers Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Some officers still had not seen the memo as of late Thursday. A copy was given to The Virginian-Pilot.

No other Hampton Roads jurisdiction has such a strict pursuit policy. The new order will affect other jurisdictions that chase fleeing motorists into Virginia Beach. Wall said those officers will be allowed to continue a hot pursuit in Virginia Beach, but they would not get help from his department’s officers unless the pursuit was justified under the new criteria.

The order is an interim step. Department officials are rewriting the pursuit policy, and the city’s officers will be given a chance to comment on a draft of the proposed orders. But Wall said he expects the final orders to be similar to the interim policy.

The new order is a sharp departure from the former policy, which allowed officers discretion as to when to begin a pursuit. The Police Department has in recent years allowed officers more latitude to aggressively halt fleeing motorists. Officers have been trained to use tire-deflating spikes and to box in fleeing vehicles with rolling roadblocks.

Also, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision made it very difficult for citizens to sue police in federal court for damages or injuries resulting from pursuits.

Wall said it was the safety of the community, and not the Supreme Court decision, that guided him.

“I am very concerned, as you should be, about the dangers inherent in police pursuits of vehicles,” Wall said in the memo. “The conflict between our efforts to protect the lives of citizens . . . and engaging in high-speed pursuits through city streets should be obvious.”

The new order will allow a pursuit only when an officer believes a car’s occupant or occupants have used a gun or a bomb to commit, or to try to commit, a violent felony.

“All other pursuits are prohibited,” the memo said.

Wall said Thursday the decision to curtail pursuits wasn’t taken lightly. He and others studied the pursuit policies of jurisdictions in at least seven states. They also consulted with national experts on police pursuits.

The chief said, after the review, he and his staff determined a more restrictive policy will be safer for the public and the police officers.

The new rules come against a backdrop of several controversial police pursuits in Virginia Beach, including some that have killed innocent people.

On Jan. 21, 1995, a drunken driver eluded police for 15 miles before the van he was driving slammed into a sports car in Norfolk and killed two people. Although state police had taken over the pursuit, the chase started in Virginia Beach. That chase would not be allowed now.

On March 25, 1997, Bruce V. Quagliato led police on a low-speed pursuit that ended when his car and at least two police cars collided on Independence Boulevard. He died after several police officers shot him, thinking he was armed. He wasn’t.

Twice in 1997, motorcyclists being chased for traffic or equipment infractions died after crashing at high speeds. Neither pursuit would be allowed now.

On Feb. 6, police said a 14-year-old girl was driving a stolen car when she sped from a police officer on Shore Drive. She and a companion survived a crash that killed an innocent motorist, 56-year-old Michael Boynton, a retired Navy SEAL and war hero. That pursuit would not be allowed today.

On March 14, five teen-agers in a stolen car crashed after trying to elude police. The car’s driver and one passenger, both 14, died. That pursuit would not be allowed today.

“We considered (these crashes) and we considered the danger to our officers,” Wall said. “We have looked at this for quite a while.”

Mary Boynton, wife of the man killed by the 14-year-old car thief, said Thursday she never blamed the police because they were doing their job. She said she instead blames the teen-agers who stole a car and killed her husband.

The new policy drew mixed reactions.

“I think it is great. It is something they should’ve done a long time ago,” said attorney Jim McKenry, who represents Quagliato’s family. Quagliato was shot to death at the end of a police pursuit when he refused to comply with officers’ orders. Under a strict interpretation of the new policy, a similar pursuit would not be initiated now.

His client “would still be alive and well,” McKenry said. Quagliato’s family is suing the city for $5 million.

But Mike Goodove, president of Southside MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he is concerned about any policy that could hamper police from aggressive DUI enforcement. Under this policy, police can’t chase a drunken driver who flees.

“The Virginia Beach Police Department should first of all be applauded for its efforts to combat impaired driving,” he said. “We would certainly interpret impaired driving as a violent offense because of the potential injuries and death the drunk driver would cause. Because an impaired driver poses a serious threat to others on the roadway, the proposed policy change to ban pursuits, with respect to drunk driving, gives us some concern.

“We are confident that the Virginia Beach police department will allow its officers to remove impaired drivers from the roadway while protecting the safety of those on the road,” Goodove said.

Lillian DeVenny, state president of Virginians Opposing Drunk Driving, said she can see both sides of the issue. An advocate for stringent police enforcement of DUI, she also knows a family whose son was killed in a police pursuit.

“In a way, (the new policy) angers me, but I have had ambivalent feelings on that matter for quite some time,” she said. “I feel the police officers have been doing their jobs as best as they can, but when I look at the other side of the coin, and see the victims of pursuits, I have second thoughts.”

The city’s new policy represents exactly the kinds of police guidelines that Wyoming-based STOPP, or Solutions to Tragedies of Police Pursuit, lobbies for. That group studies police pursuits and ways to reduce them.

“That is wonderful,” said STOPP’s Jeff Maceiko of the Virginia Beach policy. “We don’t want them to ban all pursuits, per se, but we do want to ban all except for the pursuits of violent felons. This exactly what we want.”

Several police officers contacted Thursday said the new policy will limit their effectiveness, and it may cause more motorists to run because they know the police won’t chase. They said drunken drivers, unlicensed drivers and other criminals would probably take the chance to escape. Many officers said only law-abiding drivers would stop for them now.

Wall said he doesn’t think that will happen.

“Every place we have looked that has similar policies, we found that simply has not been the case,” Wall said. “They reported that was not the result.”

Before Thursday, the decision to chase a suspect was left to the individual officer. The officer would have to consider, among other things, the risks involved, the severity of the offense, and the possibility of catching the motorist at a later time. Now, most of that discretion is eliminated.

“While none of us likes the thought of letting someone go who has committed a violation and compounded that by fleeing when we signal them to stop,” the memo said, “the overriding factor guiding all of our actions must be our concern for the safety of the officers involved and the citizens of the community, as well as the violators themselves.”

One of the city’s police-union representatives, Officer Bobby Mathieson, said his organization doesn’t yet have an opinion on the new policy.

“We welcome the public input on this,” he said. “The public should be a big part of this, to see if they support (the new rules), or if they don’t.”

Although the Supreme Court has granted police departments more protection, Virginia Beach is one of many agencies across the country adopting more restrictive pursuit policies.

Authorities in Florida said Hampton Roads fugitive Carl Douglas Consolvo outran a police officer because the Miami Shores Police Department doesn’t allow pursuits. Federal authorities said Consolvo then continued his crime spree, which included a wave of bank robberies and the shooting of a Utah police officer.

But even though police may sometimes fail to catch criminals, no-pursuit policies could save more than 100 innocent lives a year, advocates said.

In 1996, the latest year for which complete national statistics are available, 377 deaths resulted from police pursuits. Of those deaths, 111 were innocent third parties. The remaining 266 were in the fleeing cars.

Some states have tried to quell the number of police pursuits. Some of those efforts have targeted the motorists, and some have curbed the police.

Oregon lawmakers, for example, made it a felony instead of a misdemeanor to run from police. Other state lawmakers, like those in Delaware, are trying to craft statewide pursuit policies that all municipalities must follow.

Wall said the final version of revised orders could be approved and in place by next month.

More on PILOT ONLINE: Do you agree with the restrictions on Virginia Beach police pursuits? Cast an instant-poll vote and tell your reasoning in TalkNet at

http://www.pilotonline.com

Copyright (c) 1998 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9806050663

Categories
Archive 1998 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Parents feel pressure of teen drinking, too

The school year is winding down, proms and summer vacations are looming, and parents at Norfolk Collegiate School are talking about peer pressure and underage drinking.

Not just pressure on their kids. Pressure on themselves, the parents.

Pressure to be the nice guys and not the cops with their children and their children’s friends when it comes to them experimenting with alcohol. Pressure to want their kids to like them, to think they’re cool. Pressure to not look like a prude in front of other parents.

A mother with 14- and 17-year-old sons complained that she was the only parent she knew who checked to see if other parents were chaperoning parties in their homes. If she raised the question of alcohol use, the other parents often shrugged and said the kids were going to drink anyway. Better that it be under their roofs.

“They looked at me like I was nuts,” she said.

More than 50 parents of students at this private school met in its cafeteria Monday night for a panel discussion on underage drinking. What are the legalities? What can parents do to discourage it?

“I was kind of hoping to get some ideas on how to handle it,” said George M. Kemp of Virginia Beach, who’s struggled over the issue with his 17-year-old son. “Prohibition doesn’t work.”

Maybe not, but don’t give up, panel members told the crowd.

For one thing, giving or even unintentionally allowing your children to use alcohol – such as by retreating upstairs behind a closed bedroom door while the kids party unsupervised downstairs – is against the law, reminded Judge James H. Flippen Jr. of Norfolk’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. It’s called contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And it’s punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“It’s serious business,” the judge said.

Helping children “get used to” drinking before they, say, head off to college sends a confusing and immoral mixed message, said Michael L. Goodove, a lawyer and president of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MADD calls for zero tolerance for underaged drinking. Goodove’s brother was killed at college by an underaged drunken driver. Parents, he and the other panel members said, need to repeatedly talk with their children about why drinking is inappropriate as well as illegal for them.

But don’t try horror stories – they won’t work on savvy teens, said Richard H. Jaglowski, a therapist who’s coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Program at Maryview Psychiatric Hospital.

A firm, consistent and honest stand against their drinking – parents can at least control their own homes – and a game plan to deal with slip-ups is what’s needed.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop your child from drinking,” Jaglowski told the parents. “Nine out of 10 kids, by the time they reach 17, have had alcohol. Forty percent have tried marijuana.

“The only way that’s not going to happen is if you Velcro your kid to your hip.”

Mary Gauthier knows this. The mother of four teenagers and a Norfolk Collegiate faculty member, she regrets not taking a harsher stand when she caught her oldest son with a beer in ninth grade. She cared too much about what her children thought of her.

Years later, on one of the son’s visits home, friends came over late. There was drinking that Gauthier didn’t know about until one of the son’s underaged college friends drunkenly called her the “coolest mom” because she didn’t get angry.

“I was really ashamed of myself,” Gauthier said.

The National High School Senior Survey, an annual study by the University of Michigan, showed in 1995 that illegal drug use was rising among American high-schoolers, and alcohol use was remaining fairly stable, although increasing slightly for seniors.

In 1995, almost 81 percent of seniors had tried alcohol, and 55 percent of eighth-graders had. Thirty percent of 12th-graders had had five or more drinks in a row in the two weeks before the survey; 15 percent of eighth-graders had. More than 63 percent of the seniors had been drunk at least once in their lives, and more than a quarter of the eighth-graders had.

Students at Monday’s discussion agreed that alcohol was prevalent – at parties, driving around, at homes after school when parents weren’t home. Start alcohol education when children are 11 and 12, they said. Talk to children, but don’t come down too hard – they’ll rebel, the youngsters said.

Parents were hoping for more answers. “We know our kids are going to drink,” said Stephen B. Ballard Sr. of Norfolk. “I did it. I imagine nine out of 10 here did it.”

“It’s a tough issue,” the father of two said later. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

One of his friends serves alcohol to teens, Ballard said. Going the other way, parent Kemp and his wife stopped drinking at home, believing that setting responsible examples was the key.

Roz Klein’s oldest child is 14, so it’s still easy for Mom and Dad to lay down a black-and-white line concerning alcohol. But it won’t always be, Klein acknowledged.

“I agree with one of the parents who said your kids aren’t going to like you no matter what, so you might as well do what’s right.”

Caption:
Graphic
WHO IS DRINKING
Percent of students who …
Have tried alcohol:
12th grade – 80.7 percent
10th grade – 70.6 percent
8th grade – 54.6 percent
Have been drunk:
12th grade – 63.2 percent
10th grade – 48.9 percent
8th grade – 25.3 percent
Drink daily:
12th grade – 3.5 percent
10th grade – 1.7 percent
8th grade – 0.7 percent

Source: University of Michigan’s National High School Senior
Survey of about 16,000 students in 144 public and private schools
nationwide, December 1995.

Copyright (c) 1996 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9605080396

Categories
Archive 1998 STS&G News Goodove in the News Virginian-Pilot

Hospital settles lawsuit filed by abortion patient

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital has settled an unusual medical malpractice lawsuit that accused the hospital and a nurse of mistreating an abortion patient in 1994.

The lawsuit, filed in 1996, accused a labor-and-delivery nurse who opposed abortion, Nancy C. Benson, of criticizing and harassing a patient who was about to undergo an abortion.

The lawsuit accused Sentara of not protecting the patient from the nurse and of negligently hiring, supervising and training her.

The case was settled confidentially last week. It is not known how much money Sentara paid to the complaining patient, who was identified in court papers as Jane Doe.

“We were very satisfied with the resolution of this matter,” said Doe’s attorney, Michael L. Goodove. “We felt we were dealt with very fairly by Sentara.”

The nurse’s attorney, Dante M. Filetti, said his client did not participate in the settlement. She was voluntarily dismissed from the case just before it was settled.

“I’m just really happy that the matter is closed,” Filetti said. “It was a tough matter for her.”

Sentara’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

This is the second lawsuit concerning this particular abortion and this nurse. The first case was a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by Benson against Sentara. Benson claimed she was forced out of the hospital because she refused to help with abortions. Benson lost that case in January 1997 when a judge ruled she was properly suspended for her unprofessional behavior and “complete lack of judgment” in this particular abortion.

The incident happened Dec. 22, 1994. The patient was 4 1/2 months pregnant with a deformed fetus. Benson was assigned to help her prepare for an abortion.

In her lawsuit, the patient said Benson did not help. She said Benson criticized her for choosing the abortion, told her she would never get over it, and said she would have to celebrate her dead child’s birthday just as she celebrated her living child’s.

Then, the lawsuit said, the nurse started crying and said she was opposed to abortion, acknowledged that she had never assisted in an abortion before and told the patient that she – the patient – would have to help her – the nurse – through the difficult procedure.

The patient and her husband complained, Benson was taken off the abortion and suspended. She quit a few days later.

Benson has said in an interview and court papers that the hospital knew she opposed abortions, yet constantly pressured her to help with them. She said she refused several times, then finally was forced to help with this one.

Benson said she did not harass the patient but tried to help the woman understand what she was about to go through. She said the hospital forced her out of her job because of her religious beliefs.

In January 1997, U.S. District Judge John A. MacKenzie ruled that the nurse was wrong.

“Benson was not fired for refusing to care for an abortion patient,” MacKenzie ruled. “Quite the opposite, she was disciplined for the type of care that she did render to the patient. In fact, the discipline of suspension came about for her complete lack of judgment in the 15 minutes” in which she cared for the patient. “By her conduct,” the judge wrote, “Benson created anxiety in the mind of a patient awaiting sensitive surgery and she created a customer service disaster for her employer.”

Benson appealed, then settled with Sentara before the appeal could be heard.

The patient then sued Benson and Sentara in December 1996. The lawsuit said Benson was negligent for forcing her personal beliefs onto a patient about to undergo an abortion, for criticizing the patient’s decision to have the abortion, and for failing to provide nursing care and comfort. Benson and Sentara denied the charges.

Even though the case was 14 months old, it was never set for trial.

Caption:
Graphic
FACT
This is the second lawsuit concerning this abortion and this nurse.
The first case was a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the
nurse, Nancy C. Benson, against Sentara. Benson claimed she was
forced out of the hospital because she refused to help with
abortions.

Copyright (c) 1998 The Virginian-Pilot
Record Number: 9802120524