Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Rarity: Legal Abortionist Prosecuted for Patient Death

Lou Ann Herron
Those insist that legalization of abortion is necessary to keep our daughters safe might want to speak to Lou Ann Herron's father, Mike Gibb, who silently wept in the courtroom as he listened to witnesses describe how his 33-year-old daughter bled to death on April 17, 1998  after a late abortion at the now defunct A-Z Women's Center.

Seven Ultrasounds

Medical assistant Sylvia Aragon wept on the witness stand as she said that Lou Ann's pregnancy was "too far along" for an abortion. The ultrasound Aragon did on April 9 showed a 26-week fetus, but Dr. John Biskind kept ordering more and more ultrasound scans to try to get one that would document the pregnancy as being early enough for the abortion to be legal. A total of seven ultrasounds were done before an estimate of 23 weeks was obtained the day prior to the abortion. 

Lou Ann's Pleas

The abortion was performed at 1:30 p.m. Biskind, his lawyer said, noted a small amount of blood on the sheets when he checked on Lou Ann after the abortion, but that he was not concerned because bleeding is normal after an abortion. Two medical assistants, however, testified that Lou Ann was very frightened about her condition as she lay in recovery. She became combative and anxious. She reported that her legs were going numb. She cried out in pain as she lay in a puddle of blood, begging to know what was wrong with her. These, emergency physician John Gallagher noted, are all clear signs of severe blood loss. 

Gallagher, who trains paramedics for the Phoenix Fire Department, said that the records he reviewed clearly indicated that Lou Ann's condition was life threatening and that Biskind should have recognized the severity of her injuries. Her medical records clearly indicated serious trouble at 1:25 p.m., 16 minutes after Lou Ann had been taken to the recovery room. Gallagher said that had he been treating Lou Ann, he would have ordered more IV fluids and blood immediately, and summoned an ambulance to take her to a hospital where she could be treated in a properly equipped operating room.

Instead of recognizing the danger his patient was in, Gallagher noted, Biskind instead tried to calm Lou Ann and reassure her that she would be "just fine." He tinkered with her IV (complaining that there was no qualified nurse on staff to do this), and left the building at around 3:45 p.m..

Clinic administrator Carole Stuart-Schadoff had a staffer page Biskind 25 minutes later when Lou Ann's condition worsened. Biskind did not return to the clinic, but told staff to call 911. Prosecutors estimate that by the time paramedics were summoned, Lou Ann had lost 2 to 3 liters of blood.

What the Medics Found

When the rescue crew arrived, Phoenix fire captain Biran Tobin testified, Lou Ann appeared to be dead. Nobody at the clinic seemed aware of how grave her condition was, he said, and nobody seemed to be helping her in any way. The only thing that anybody had done for her was put on an oxygen mask. 

Evidently somebody had removed Lou Ann's IV, because there wasn't one in place to allow life-saving medications to be administered. Nobody had put in an endotracheal tube and started "bagging" her to ensure that her body was getting enough oxygen to sustain life. "I very quickly felt that there wasn't a lot of competent medical care going on at the time," Tobin said.

Staff told rescuers that Lou Ann's vital signs were pulse 100, and blood pressure 90/50. "It was very difficult for me to believe that they could get the vital signs of a woman who, even as we walked in the door, looked really dead," Tobin testified.

Lou Ann was pronounced dead a the hospital.

Biskind Held Accountable

John Biskind
Biskind surrendered his license to practice medicine in Arizona after Lou Ann's death in order to stop an ongoing medical board investigation of the circumstances and his handling of the case. However, this was not enough to stop the police investigation. Both Biskind and the clinic's administrator, Carol Stuard-Schadoff, were charged with homicide.  A jury of seven women and one man immediately agreed that the defendants were guilty. It was simply a matter of deciding which charges they were guilty of: the manslaughter charge, or the lesser charge of negligent homicide. It took them 4 1/2 hours to conclude that Biskind was guilty of manslaughter, Stuart-Schadoff of negligent homicide.

Only after the trial was over did members of the jury learn of Biskind's history of misconduct, including the previous death of abortion patient Lisa Bardsley. The jury foreman said that this information "makes me feel better about my decision."

One guilty party, however, was not held accountable: The clinic's owner, Moshe Hachamovitch. Hachamovitch himself performed fatal abortions on Tanya WilliamsonLuz Rodriguez, and Christina GoessweinJammie Garcia died after a safe and legal abortion at Hachamovitch's Texas facility. That's a total of six dead patients either at his hands or under his supervision.

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