Montreal hospital regrets drug-testing error after baby seized

A Montreal mother whose newborn was taken away after a false-positive drug test says she's vindicated now that the hospital has deemed her complaint "well-founded."

Newborn was turned over to foster family after mother tests false-positive for drugs

Isabel Villeneuve's complaint after her baby was seized leads to change in hospital drug-testing. 2:04

A Montreal mother whose newborn was taken away after the hospital administered a false-positive drug test says she feels vindicated now that the hospital has deemed her complaint "well-founded."

"It feels good to know that at least somebody is taking responsibility for this, because we are over everything that has happened," said Isabel Villeneuve. "But it's still good to know that they're making changes, so this won't happen again."

Isabel Villeneuve gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Kaia, in January at the Royal Victoria Hospital — part of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC.)

A day after the baby was born, the hospital told Villeneuve she had tested positive for methamphetamines and opiates.

Villeneuve insisted she had not taken drugs recently, but she was flagged for the test because she had admitted to using marijuana early in her pregnancy. She stopped after her first visit to a prenatal clinic and willingly took the test at the hospital.

A second test on the same sample yielded a faint positive.

The case was referred to youth protection, and Kaia was put in the care of a foster family.

Acid reflux drugs caused false positive

Villeneuve said the positive drug test was due to acid reflux medication she had been prescribed by her doctor — a drug sometimes known to cause false positives.

The baby was returned to Villeneuve a week later, but with conditions attached: that Villeneuve and her partner live with his parents, and that she submit to random drug tests.

The couple filed a complaint with the hospital and was recently given a copy of a confidential eight-page report from the MUHC's complaint commissioner. That report acknowledges the stress the situation imposed on the family, and the commissioner has issued a series of recommendations. 

The report says the drug test results were "a major element in the decision to signal your baby to [youth protection]."

"The evidence shows also that these results cannot be relied on for medical/legal purposes because of the possibility of false positive results arising from cross reaction with medication taken by a patient."

The report goes on to say that the hospital should have administered a separate second test that is known to give reliable results. The report states that second test is not currently available at any of the MUHC's hospitals, however.

Villeneuve said the conclusions of the report and the validation of her claims are satisfying, but that she's never received an apology from the hospital.

"The whole point we set out in getting the word out there is to make sure this doesn't happen anymore," she said.

The MUHC has refused to comment on the specifics of the case publicly, citing privacy concerns. It did release a statement acknowledging that false-positive tests on any medical blood test can lead to "unnecessary stress."

"The hospital sincerely regrets any pain and suffering this may cause, but must do its best to ensure the protection of all its patients," the statement reads.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the hospital issued another statement, saying it regrets any emotional distress caused by the intervention by youth protection authorities.

The hospital says staff were always acting in the best interests of the child.

But Villeneuve says should she have another child, it won't be at the Royal Victoria Hospital.