In 1996, birthmother Nancy Safsten filed a lawsuit in Third District Court, Salt Lake County, Utah, against LDS Social Services, Inc. and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The following is an excerpt from the proceedings:
In 1966, appellant, who was then a twenty-three-year-old college student and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, became pregnant and contacted the predecessor of LDS Social Services (the Agency). During counseling sessions with the Agency, the Agency advised appellant to give the child up for adoption, because if she did not, she would ruin the child's life. The Agency assigned Gladys Carling to be the case worker in charge of appellant's case. Carling met with appellant several times between November 1966 and December 1967 to discuss placing the child for adoption. When the time for delivery arrived, appellant was admitted under an alias into St. Benedict's Hospital in Ogden, Utah, and the Agency was designated to pay her expenses. Appellant gave birth to a son on January 14, 1967.
After the delivery, appellant's physician placed her on the drug Thorazine, a sedative. Appellant asserts that while she was on the drug she was physically, mentally, and emotionally incapacitated. Two days after the birth, and while appellant was on the drug, Carling came to the hospital seeking a signature on a release in which appellant relinquished custody of her child to the Agency and consented to the child's adoption. Appellant signed the release and Carling placed the baby in the Agency's foster care.(1) Carling noted that at this time appellant appeared to be passive and indifferent and appeared to be on a sedative. Despite this, Carling believed appellant had the mental capacity to understand that she was giving up custody of her child and that she knowingly and voluntarily signed the release.
Soon thereafter, appellant visited the Agency to express her confusion and remorse from the loss of her child. The Agency told her there was nothing it could do for her. She contacted the Agency about thirty more times about the adoption in the following months. The Agency never gave her any information about the adoption or her condition at the time she signed the release. However, appellant does not claim she asked how the Agency got her consent to the adoption when she did not remember giving it.
Approximately two years later, in July 1969, appellant sent a letter to the hospital where the birth had occurred asking for records of the medical expenses she had incurred during her hospital stay so she could repay the Agency. The hospital responded with a letter stating: "Since the records of our no information maternity patients are destroyed, I can only send you an estimated amount." Appellant never asked for her medical records, only for a bill of the costs she incurred, although from her understanding of the letter she believed her medical records had been destroyed.
In 1990, appellant and the son she had given up for adoption were reunited. Then, on approximately May 29, 1990, appellant requested her son's medical records from the hospital. In response, the hospital mistakenly sent appellant her own medical records. After reading these records, appellant discovered that while she was in the hospital she had been administered the drug Thorazine. After learning this, appellant visited the Agency "to determine what documentation, if any, [the Agency] had of the authority it claimed in placing appellant's son for adoption." The Agency provided her the release she signed in the hospital. At this point appellant learned, after comparing the date of her signature to the dates in her medical records, that she was on the drug Thorazine when she signed the release.
Drug dosage and its effect
In private correspondence with The Adoption Digger, Nancy Safsten reported that her records indicated she had been given the first 50 mg dose of Thorazine six hours before delivery of her baby, despite the fact that there was no documented medical condition warranting it. If you look up Thorazine on internet medical websites, you'll find that this drug is not merely a "sedative" as the judge wrote in his decision. Thorazine (brand name for chlorpromazine) is a powerful anti-psychotic drug, "prescribed to treat the symptoms of certain types of mental illness, such as emotional symptoms of psychosis, the manic phase of manic-depressive illness, and severe behavioral problems in children." It is not recommended for pregnant women, especially during either the first trimester or near term. It is believed to block certain chemicals involved with nerve transmission in the brain.
Reading the description of this drug on Wikipedia sends shivers down the spine:
Chlorpromazine (as chlorpromazine hydrochloride, abbreviated CPZ; marketed in the United States as Thorazine and elsewhere as Largactil) is a dopamine antagonist of the typical antipsychotic class of medications possessing additional antiadrenergic, antiserotonergic, anticholinergic and antihistaminergic properties used to treat schizophrenia. First synthesized on December 11, 1950, chlorpromazine was the first drug developed with specific antipsychotic action, and would serve as the prototype for the phenothiazine class of drugs, which later grew to comprise several other agents. The introduction of chlorpromazine into clinical use has been described as the single greatest advance in psychiatric care, dramatically improving the prognosis of patients in psychiatric hospitals worldwide; the availability of antipsychotic drugs curtailed indiscriminate use of electroconvulsive therapy and psychosurgery, and was one of the driving forces behind the deinstitutionalization movement.
Thorazine Dosing for Schizophrenia or Mania The recommended starting Thorazine dose for schizophrenia or mania is 10 mg three or four times daily or 25 mg two or three times a day. If your schizophrenia is especially severe (and you are hospitalized), your healthcare provider may choose to start you at a higher dose. If necessary, your healthcare provider may increase your Thorazine dose.
Thorazine Dosing for Nausea and Vomiting The recommended dose of Thorazine for severe nausea and vomiting is 10 mg to 25 mg every four to six hours as needed.
In addition to the 50 mg dose of Thorazine administered prior to delivery, the day after delivery, Nancy Safsten was given three 50 mg doses. (Pharmacological recommendations indicate dosages this massive only in the most severe psychotic cases.) Even if she was being treated for nausea and vomiting following delivery that first day, her prescribed doses were anywhere from 100% to 500% higher than recommended.
The second day after delivery, because she lost consciousness twice due to the Thorazine, her dosage was cut to 25 mg three times a day. It was that day that, records show, she signed the relinquishment document. She has no memory of the social worker coming into her room that day, much less signing the document. Nor does she remember her mother visiting her several times.
Case worker recalls Nancy's appearing 'sedated' at relinquishment
Nancy's case worker, Gladys C. Carling, testified on her behalf at the hearing (formatted here in paragraph form, rather than outline form as it appeared in written court testimony):
During January, 1967, LD.S. Social Services ("Social Services") employed me as a case worker. As a regular part of my case worker duties, I obtained consents to adopt according to the following procedure:
Usually I would meet with the birth mother before she entered the hospital. I would inform the hospital the mother was under Social Services' jurisdiction and request that the hospital inform me when the birth occurred and not publish the birth otherwise. The hospital would inform me of the birth and of the child's general condition.
If there was no urgency regarding the mother's or child's health, I would visit the mother one or two days after the birth. If the birth mother desired to relinquish the child, I obtained her consent on the standard form release which L.D.S. Social Services used at the time.
In accord with Social Services' policy: i) I was the only witness to the birth mother's execution of the release. ii) Also in accord with Social Services policy, I acted as notary. iii) I did not review the birth mother's medical records or otherwise inquire about the birth mother's physical or mental capacity.
I met with plaintiff several times between November, 1966 and January, 1967. As of those meetings, plaintiff had not decided to relinquish the child. In those meetings, I noticed plaintiff was outspoken, direct and capable of forming her own opinion.
I met with plaintiff next on January 16, 1967, two days after plaintiff delivered her baby boy. I noticed plaintiff was not herself. I found plaintiff to be passive, indifferent and unaffected. Nonetheless, I obtained plaintiff's consent. Later, I took the baby with me and placed the baby in L.D.S. Social Services' foster care.
As was my standard practice, I recorded the subject events on an audio tape. In that recording, I stated I believed plaintiff was sedated at the time she gave her ostensible consent.
Several times after her delivery plaintiff expressed to me her confusion, remorse, heartache and void from the loss of her child.
Under Social Services' policy, Social Services would not allow plaintiff or any birth mother to revoke her consent based on remorse, grief, heartache, or void from the loss of the child.