Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Suicidal Doctor, a Fake Doctor, and a Psychologist

An Abortion and a Suicide, Pittsburgh, 1901

At about 9 a.m. on July 17, 1901, 23-year-old widow Juliette "Julia" O'Brien, an immigrant from France, died at 3187 Carson Street in Pittsburgh, from complications of an illegal abortion which Julia had told her family had been perpetrated by Dr. Michael A. Arnholt. At the coroner's inquest, Julia's mother, through a French interpreter, added that on or around July 12, "My daughter told me that Dr. Arnholt had abused her several times when she was in his office."

Julia's sister-in-law, Helen Maurice, said that she'd gone to Arnholt's office with Julia. Julia, she said, went back into another area with Arnholt and was there for more than a hour. Julia was pale and weak when she emerged, barely able to walk.

Arnolt went to the family home on July 15, cussing up a storm and berating Julia for telling her family about the abortion. Two other physicians -- Dr. W. H. McCombs and Dr. George P. Rossman, were called in to attend to help attend Julia in her illness. Her mother had told both of them about the abortion, but they failed to report the abortion to the Coroner and were first censured then arrested.


A sketched portrait of a bald white man, perhaps in his 60s, with a bushy white mustache, small eyes, and a squarish face
Dr. Arnholt
Julia's brother and sister had been planning to file suit and expose Arnholt's abortion practice if he did not pay them $5000 in damages to cover the cost of caring for the 21-month-old child the abortion had left an orphan. He reportedly begged them on his knees not to subject him to the ignominy of being exposed as an abortionist. Putting him behind bars, he said, would not bring their sister back. Julia's sister said that a distraught Arnholt had torn at his hair and told them, "I know I did wrong. I know I did wrong in causing this poor girl to die." He offered to pay all of the expenses related to Julia's death and to pay $3 per week for the maintenance of Julia's toddler until the child reached the age of 21.

Julia's siblings told Arnholt that they wanted the $5,000 up front instead, and decided to give him time to think about it. they agreed to meet with him on July 23 to discuss the situation. However, several hours before the scheduled meeting Arnholt committed suicide in his office by shooting himself through the heart.

A Phony Doctor, Chicago, 1917

On July 17, 1917, 34-year-old nurse Frances Reinhardt died at Chicago's County Hospital from septic blood poisoning caused by an abortion which police said had been perpetrated by Dr. A. E. Thomas. However, further investigation revealed that a non-physician identified as W. Thomas had appropriated the name from a retired doctor.

W. Thomas had been able to practice medicine without a license for several years until his ruse was exposed after his arrest for Frances' death. The real Dr. A. E. Thomas's brother suspected that the arrested "doctor" had stolen his identity and reported this to the board of health.

The Chicago Daily Tribune notes, "Instead of being a pompous, suave, well fed and dressed charlatan like other quacks who have fallen into the meshes of the law recently, he turned out to be a shaking, wretched, and miserable victim of morphine, whose condition when he was captured bordered on hysteria." Upon arrest, Thomas admitted the ruse to police.

Though he was held by the Coroner for Frances' death, the charges were dropped for a reason I have been unable to determine. I have also found no evidence that anybody else was arrested for the crime.


A Repeat Offender, Oklahoma, 1940

On July 17, 1940, Goldie Crow, 28-year-old wife of Oklahoma City milk truck driver Albert Crow, died of peritonitis from a criminal abortion performed July 2 by Otto C. Lucy. Lucy was a 37-year-old psychologist and teacher, had previously been dean of men at Central State College. He performed the fatal abortion on Goldie while he was out on bail pending trial for the abortion death of Mary Ellen Legge. Though he was not a physician, Lucy had a listing in the telephone book reading "Dr. Otto C. Lucy".

Albert admitted that he had purchased some abortifacients, which had not had their desired effect. He went to Lucy's apartment in June, thinking that Lucy was a doctor. He told him that Goldie was pregnant and that they didn't want the child. He also told Lucy that he had no money, and Lucy said that he couldn't do anything for him.

A round-faced middle-aged White man wearing an overcoat and tie, dark fedora, and small wire-rimmed spectacles
Otto Lucy
But evidently either Albert found the money or he worked out some arrangement with Lucy, because on July 2, Lucy went to the Crow home at dusk and performed an abortion on Goldie. At some point that evening he called a nurse, Mrs. Ruth Bowen, to assist him. Some time afterward he returned to check on Goldie, found her condition improved, and recommended that she drink fruit juices and plenty of water.

Over the next few days, Goldie's condition deteriorated. Albert called Lucy, who said he'd done all he could for her and told Albert to take his wife to a hospital. Albert called the family doctor, who also said to take Goldie to a hospital. Albert called a taxi and did so. But despite the efforts of doctors there, Goldie died.

During the investigation into Goldie's abortion, police found surgical instruments wrapped in a towel and bloody newspaper, stuffed into a garbage can in the basement of the apartment building where Lucy lived. He was convicted of first degree manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in the state penitentiary for Goldie's death.

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