Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Don't Put Yourself in the Hands of Quacks," and More Quackery Pre and Post Legalization

"Don't go out and put yourself in the hands of quacks, dear. There are plenty of places that don't care about women like we do."Betty EasonOwner, Dadeland  Family Planning Center 
Chatoor Bisal Singh did an abortion on 38-year-old Ellen Williams at Miami's notorious Dadeland abortion clinic on March 2, 1985. On March 4, Ellen returned, doubled over and rocking back and forth in pain. Dadeland owner Betty Eason gave her some tea, then called Singh, who arrived four hours later. Singh examined Ellen, then turned her over to Nabil Ghali, a known quack and sex offender, who performed a second D&C and sent Ellen home with a bottle of antibiotics. On March 5, Ellen was rushed by ambulance to Coral Reef Hospital, where she was rushed into surgery. She died in the intensive care unit on March 6. The autopsy revealed that she had uterine and bowel perforations, causing the peritonitis that killed her. Singh told the Miami Herald that he didn't usually work at Dadeland, but was "strapped for cash" and agreed to fill in for Robert Kast while he was away. Singh described himself as "not an abortionist, just an honest, easygoing guy looking for something temporary. After Ellen's death, Singh quit working at Dadeland, saying, "It was a bad month." It certainly was: the same day he'd performed the first abortion on Ellen Williams, Singh also did an abortion on a woman who afterward hemorrhaged and passed a portion of her fetus. When she returned with it to the clinic, staff told her it was "a blood clot," but a hospital later verified that it was a 16-week fetal head.

A 16-year-old girl underwent a safe and legal second-trimester saline abortion on August 26, 1969. A journal article on her death identifies her as "F.S." I'll call her "Felicia." Felicia developed an infection and symptoms of meningitis after her abortion. She continued to be treated for ten days before she was transferred to another hospital in San Francisco for further treatment. Doctors performed two heart valve replacements on Felicia, and had scheduled her for yet another before she died on March 6, 1970. The cause of death was severe congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

Beatrice Fern Fisher, age 36, lived about 17 miles from Seattle. In March of 1945, Beatrice informed her husband that she was pregnant, and that she intended to return to Seattle for an abortion to be performed by the woman who'd done a previous abortion for Beatrice. Her husband wasn't happy with the plan, but left the matter to his wife. On March 5, Beatrice took her four-year-old daughter, mother-in-law, and $100 in cash and drove to Seattle to seek her former physician. When they arrived at "Dr. T's" office, Dr. T was not available, but his nurse gave Beatrice the name of Dr. Frank C. Hart, along with the address of his office. Beatrice and her companions went to Hart's office, where she remained while her mother-in-law took the little girl shopping. Beatrice took sick on the way home, so they went to her in-laws' home so she could rest before going home. The following morning, Beatrice told her husband that she was returning to Dr. Hart to have "blood clots" removed. She took her daughter and mother-in-law with her again. Beatrice's mother-in-law told Hart that she was very concerned about Beatrice. Fisher told her, "This is no place for relations and children. Meet her downstairs in the lobby." Upon returning about 20 minutes later, the mother-in-law found a crowd gathered in the lobby. She approached the group and found Beatrice lying dead. Her uterine wall had been damaged, allowing a clot to work its way into Beatrice's lung, killing her. >On March 7, Hart was arrested. He showed authorities through his premises and gave instruments into evidence. He was convicted of abortion and manslaughter in Beatrice's death and died in prison in 1948.

During the 1940s, while abortion was still illegal, there was a massive drop in maternal mortality from abortion. The death toll fell from 1,407 in 1940, to 744 in 1945, to 263 in 1950. Most researches attribute this plunge to the development of blood transfusion techniques and the introduction of antibiotics. Learn more here.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

On March 6, 1928, Lucille Smith, a 24-year-old store clerk and homemaker, died at Chicago's Burrows Hospital from complications of an abortion performed that day at the office of midwife Emma Schulz. Schulz was indicted for felony murder on April 1, 1929. The following year, Schulz was arrested after the death of 23-year-old Gladys Schaffer. These deaths predate the development of the antibiotics and blood products that began saving lives in the upcoming decades.

Dr. C.W. Milliken was charged with performing a fatal abortion on Florence Cobb. Ohio records indicate that Florence died on March 6. It was a month for Milliken -- or, more to the point, for his patients. Iva Triplett died under his care on March 9.Milliken was held on $10,000 bail in each case, Iva's and Florence's. An earlier patient, 19-year-old Francis Karies, had died in Chicago in 1920 after undergoing an abortion at Milliken's Ohio practice.

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