Monday, April 01, 2013

Three Typical Early 20th Century Deaths

On March 29, 1921, Dr. Simeon B. Minden performed an abortion in his office on 32-year-old Mrs. Catherine Riga. Catherine died three days later at Lincoln Hospital. It took only two days for his trial, which ended in a conviction. Minden collapsed upon hearing the verdict.

On April 1, 1911, 23-year-old Mrs. Annie Murphy died from an abortion perpetrated by a midwife (or possibly obstetrician) named Carolina Adams. Adams was held by the Coroner's Jury but the case never went to trial.

eastman.jpgDr. Charles A Eastman ran a sanitarium in Old Orchard, Maine. On the morning of April 1, 1904, a body was hastily shipped from his sanitarium (pictured), and a death certificate was filed in the town clerk's office by Eastman stating that the deceased was 26-year-old Edith McIntyre, a schoolteacher from Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The cause of the death was given as gastritis resulting from the taking of oxalic acid salts by the deceased sometime in February. This all seemed a tad fishy, so the case was quickly referred to county attorney George L Emery for investigation. Edith's body was exhumed for an autopsy, which revealed that she had died from a criminal abortion. Eastman, realizing that the authorities were on to him, fled his sanitarium by the time Emery got back to question him. Eastman was found guilty of manslaughter.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. In fact, due to improvements in addressing these problems, maternal mortality in general (and abortion mortality with it) fell dramatically in the 20th Century, decades before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion across America.

external image MaternalMortality.gif

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