Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An Unknown, an Acquittal, and Safe and Legal Quackery

A Mystery "Treatment," 1909

On June 6, 1909, "Tessa," identified by the source document as "Mrs. Z.," was 29 years old and four months pregnant. She availed herself of a midwife to be "treated" -- as it was termed in her hospital records. The "treatment" was most likely an abortion attempt. After this "treatment," Tessa took ill, with a dull abdominal pain, hemorrhage, and fever.

She was admitted to Cook County Hospital on June 20, suffering with chills. Her pulse was an elevated 128, her respirations at 50. Her fever was comparatively low, 101 degrees, but she appeared "very sick," so she was taken into surgery that same day. She was put under ether anesthesia while a doctor used a cleaned finger to remove the contents of her uterus. However, after five minutes of anesthesia it was clear that Tessa wasn't doing well so the surgery was stopped. The next day Tessa was moribund. Her temperature was a clearly unwell 102.4, but her pulse and respirations were more alarming, at 148 and 60, respectively. She died that day, June 22.

No Justice for Rose, 1928

On June 22, 1928, 31-year-old Rose Hannover died at the Chicago office of Dr. Lester I. Ofner from complications of an abortion performed there that day. Ofner was held by the coroner on July 28. On November 28, he was acquitted. The source documents do not indicate why, so we have no way of knowing if he was wrongly identified by the coroner, if the prosecution screwed up, or if the way the law was written made getting a conviction difficult.

Safe and Legal in Pannsylvania, 1996

Thirty-two-year-old Kelly Morse of Vermont traveled with her husband to Hillcrest Women's Medical Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for an abortion on June 19, 1996. Because the waiting room of the clinic was so crowded, Kelly's husband waited for her outside while Dr. Delhi Elmore Thweatt, Jr., performed the abortion.  

Dr. Dehli Thweatt
Even though Kelly had notified Hillcrest staff that she had asthma and was allergic to the "caine" medications, including Lidocaine, Thweatt administered 12 cc's of 1 percent Lidocaine to Kelly at about 11 a.m.

Kelly immediately had trouble breathing. A licensed practical nurse got Kelly's inhaler from her purse and helped her to use it, but Kelly reported that it was not helping. She became very agitated because of her difficulty in drawing breath.

Thweatt continued with the abortion, completing it in about four minutes, and spent some time providing ineffectual care to Kelly before having an ambulance summoned.

The suit filed by Kelly's husband noted, "As Mrs. Morse's dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and cyanosis [turning blue due to lack of oxygen] continued to worsen, Defendant Thweatt improperly administered Epinephrine subcutaneously instead of intravenously...." This measure would do nothing to assist a patient in Kelly's condition.

No one started an IV. No respiration rate was recorded, no pulse was checked and no blood pressure was measured. No EKG was applied. No cardiac monitoring was conducted. No pulse oximeter was applied. No intubation or emergency tracheotomy was performed. No oxygen was administered. Kelly continued to agitate in fear, desperately gasping for air, and remained blue in color. Defendant Thweatt just stood there with a stethoscope in hand and listened to Kelly's breathing and wheezing progressively worsen."

"As Plaintiff choked and gasped for air, none of the Defendants, took steps to immediately dispatch an ambulance. In fact, the ambulance was not summoned until 11:24 a.m., or 10 minutes after Plaintiff violently choked, gasped, wheezed, and discolored to a blue-black appearance from respiratory arrest and hypoxia."

Paramedics arrived within five minutes of the call, just as a staff member was running outside to summon Kelly's husband.

Kelly's husband reported that he went in with the ambulance crew to find his wife, naked and blue-black from lack of oxygen, lying on a table that was halfway out of the examination room into the hallway.

The paramedics put a breathing tube into Kelly, properly administered medications, and performed CPR as they transported Kelly to nearby Polyclinic Medical Center, where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she was pronounced dead on June 22.

Court documents in the case indicate that Hillcrest advertised Thweatt as being a Board-certified ob/gyn, yet "Defendant Thweatt failed the Ob/Gyn Board certification examination not once, not twice, but on three consecutive attempts...Defendant Thweatt failed his Board certification exam even after a fourth attempt, following his deposition of July 27, 1997."

On April 20, 1999, Thweatt and Hillcrest settled out of court with Kelly's husband. Her two children, a boy and a girl, were left motherless.

The Pennsylvania Medical Board and Maryland Medical Board show no disciplinary actions against Thweatt, who lives in Maryland.

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