Ashland woman sues over forced urine sample
An Ashland woman is suing for damages surrounding the way police and medical staff obtained a urine sample that resulted in her drunken-driving conviction — but also caused the woman a urinary tract infection and “significant emotional injury.”
Calling the procedure “painful, humiliating and deeply degrading,” Lise Ann Behringer, 64, filed a suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Medford seeking a court order stopping Ashland police and hospitals in the Providence Health Care system from forcing catheters on criminal suspects.
Behringer’s suit alleges that Ashland police exceeded the scope of their search warrant when they had medical staff force a catheter in her during a 2019 drunken driving investigation, and that Providence Medford Medical Center staff battered and assaulted her during the procedure she didn’t authorize.
“Providence Health Care then bills Ms. Behringer $1,100.24 for its barbaric treatment of her,” the lawsuit states.
Shortly before 8 p.m. the evening of Oct. 19, 2019, Ashland police Officer Justin McCreadie stopped Behringer near the intersection of East Main and Fordyce streets and smelled alcohol on her breath, according to an affidavit filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.
McCreadie said he observed her vehicle “stopped in the middle of the road” for an extended period of time, then witnessed Behringer swerving in her lane leading up to the stop. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants the following July.
The police affidavit states that Behringer refused field sobriety tests, blood and urine tests at the time of the stop, prompting the officer to obtain a search warrant for blood and urine samples.
Behringer’s lawsuit claims that she tried to provide a breath sample at the police station, but was unable to because of her disabilities. An oxygen regulator was visible in the vehicle at the time of the stop, as was a handicapped parking decal in her front window.
The officer "demanded“ a urine sample, the lawsuit claims, but Behringer refused to urinate in front of the male officer.
McCreadie obtained a search warrant for Behringer’s blood and urine. The lawsuit, however, claims that the warrant “did not authorize forced catheterization.”
She claims that the hospital staff — who have not yet been named in the lawsuit beyond “Jane and John Roe Medical Staff” — stripped her below the waist, did nothing to protect her privacy during the forced urine sample and did nothing to mitigate the pain of a tube being forced into her urethra.
According to a statement she made to a judge in her criminal case Feb. 4, 2020, Behringer claimed medical staff made five attempts to insert the catheter.
“It was so humiliating, I can’t even explain it to you,” Behringer wrote to the judge.
She expressed remorse for driving impaired, but also described being released from the hospital after her arrest without her medications, her phone or her money.
“I feel awful about it, just ashamed and disconnected and want to apologize to my community and to the court,” Behringer wrote. “On the other hand, I think it’s fair to learn what the protocol is for arresting people who have chronic, progressive illnesses which are likely to cause their death.”
“I had no purse, no money, no phone, no oxygen ... I called an Uber and had to break into my own home to get my money from my dresser to pay [the driver],” Behringer wrote. “I was easy prey out there, very scared and very ill.”
A Providence spokesperson and the Ashland City Attorney refused to comment on the case.
The lawsuit, however, cited a response from a Providence patient care liaison dated Feb. 20, 2020, which stated that an internal review found the level of care “appropriate.”
“Our review found the care appropriate as assisting law enforcement with evidence collection is something we are often asked to do,” the liaison stated Feb. 20, 2020.
The Providence representative told Behringer that there’s “no written policy or protocol that specifically outlines what should be done,” but in such incidents staff and officers make attempts to respect a patient’s right to privacy.
"One of the ways we do this is turning our backs to the patient during the process if it is safe to do so,“ Providence told Behringer. ”As it turns out this is not always the case.”
In this case, one police officer, one staff member and a hospital security officer were the only ones on scene.