Thursday, August 13, 2009

1988: Lies to cancer patient lead to fatal abortion

Allegra Roseberry, age 41, had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Allegra was admitted to Emory Hospital for assessment and surgery in anticipation of admission to an experimental cancer treatment program. There, a sonogram during surgery revealed a 23-week pregnancy, much to everyone's surprise since Allegra had undergone fertility drug treatment in order to conceive her son Matthew 20 years earlier. Her liver specialist, family doctor, and gynecologist all failed to detect her pregnancy despite amenorrhea, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, and nausea because these symptoms were attributed to the cancer and other ailments.

Allegra's doctors offered abortion as her only alternative, saying that the fetus was "doomed" due to Allegra's ailments, that the pregnancy would render her ineligible for the experimental treatment, and that the pregnancy was damaging her fragile health and would greatly hasten her death. No one arranged for a consult with a perinatologist or a high-risk obstetrician. The options of continuing the pregnancy and/or premature delivery of the infant were not offered or discussed.

Allegra was transferred to Emory's Crawford Long Hospital for the abortion. Young W. Ahn initiated the abortion by prostaglandin suppository on August 8, 1988. On August 9, Allegra expelled the dead baby, whom she and her husband named Amy Ann.

Allegra developed sepsis from the abortion, and died on August 13. An autopsy revealed that Amy had been normal.

The liver specialist contended that Allegra would have aborted Amy even if she had known the child was healthy in order to be eligible for the experimental program. However, the experimental program had no provision barring pregnant patients; Allegra would have been eligible without submitting to an abortion.

Allegra's gynecologist claimed that the reason for the abortion was damage to the fetus due to radiation therapy, and also mentioned chemotherapy, neither of which Allegra had undergone.

All defendants held that Allegra could not have survived long enough to deliver Amy alive anyway -- despite the fact that, at 23 weeks, Amy was just a week away from viability.

The jury rendered a verdict against the liver specialist for the wrongful death of baby Amy, but returned no verdict for the wrongful death of Allegra due to their assumption that the cancer would have killed her soon anyway. Evidently they did not consider the time she could have spent being a mother to her baby daughter to be of any value.

Allegra's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

  • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
  • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
  • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
  • Erika Peterson died in 1961 when her doctors obtained her husband's permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
  • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.

    For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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