Monday, January 12, 2015

The Fatal Work of Doctors, 1900 - 1980

On January 12, 1900, Mrs. Ida Henry, age 26, died at the home she shared with Dr. Paulina Bechtel, from complications of an abortion Bechtel had performed on her there that day. Bechtel, who said that she'd been practicing medicine for 18 years, was held by the Coroner's Jury. An undertaker had embalmed Ida's body prior to a post-mortem examination. He was censured for this compromising of evidence that would be found in the body, but was not charged with any crime. Bechtel had already been tried in the October 3, 1895 abortion death of Mrs. Kittie Bassett. She was also implicated in the death of Barbara Shelgren shortly after Ida's death. Bechtel went on to kill Mary Thorning in 1911.

On January 12, 1909, Florence Wright, a 34-year-old Black woman born in Kentucky, died at Wesley Hospital in Chicago from nitrous oxide asphyxiation while being treated for complications of an illegal abortion perpetrated on January 3, 1909. Midwife Louisa Achtenberg, a white woman, was held without bail for the crime of murder by abortion. She was indicted for murder but the source document doesn't indicate that there was a trial. Achtenberg appears to have been implicated as well in the abortion deaths of Dora Swan in 1907, Violet McCormick in 1921, and Madelyn Anderson in 1924.

Shirley Williams was 30 years old when she underwent a safe and legal abortion in January of 1980. She suffered from infection and hemorrhage after her abortion. On January 12, 1980, she was pronounced dead from hemorrhage.

Former criminal abortionist Milan Vuitch (pictured) had been operating his clinic without a license for two years when 32-year-old Jeannie English came to him for a safe and legal abortion on January 12, 1980, the same day Shirley Williams died. Vuitch administered general anesthesia for Jeannie, and she never woke up. She was transported to a nearby hospital where she died. When Vuitch was investigated, it was discovered that he kept patients overnight in his home (an unlicensed facility) which he designated "The Annexe." Inspectors also noted repeated violations of medical standards regarding sanitation and anesthesia. Vuitch also admitted during another case that he had lacked hospital admitting privileges since 1963. Vuitch was also responsible for the 1974 abortion death of 17-year-old Wilma Harris. He is one of three abortionists I know of who started out as criminal abortionists with clean records -- no patient deaths attributed to them -- who went on to kill two patient by performing the supposedly safer legal abortions. They are Jesse Ketchum (Margaret Smith and Carole Schaner) and Benjamin Munson (Linda Padfield and Yvonne Mesteth).

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