On November 18, 1942, 26-year-old Madlyon McGeehan, an OPA employee who had been living in Washington DC., died at Prospect Hospital in New York of peritonitis after an illegal abortion.
Dr. Joseph Nisonoff,
age 58, was arrested for homicide and held on $150,000 bail. His nurse,
Camille Ewald, was held on $150,000 bail. His receptionist, Pearl
Tense, and Dr. Max J. Weinstein, who was thought to have referred
Madeline to Nisonoff, were also arrested.
At the time of Madlyon's death, Nisonoff was out on bail after being
charged with performing another abortion, which the woman survived.
During six hours of questioning, he denied any knowledge of Madlyon's
A man identified as Madlyon's friend, Henry Elters, was held as a material witness on $15,000 bail.
Elters reportedly told Assistant District Attorney James Carney that he
had known Madlyon for about seven years, and that they had gone to
Nisonoff's office in Queens on November 13. They gave Ewald $600. She
told Elters to "take a walk." He returned to find Madlyon resting on a
On November 15, Elters was told that Madlyon needed a blood transfusion.
She was admitted to Prospect Hospital as Betty McGee. After her death
there, she was correctly identified by her sister, Mary, who had come
came from the family home at Hazleton, PA, to claim Madlyon's body.
Nisonoff was sentenced to 5 years in state prison, and Weinstein was sentenced to the city penitentiary.
As a result of the McGeehan case, the New York District Attorney's
office began investigating other possible abortion rings in the city.
Madlyon's abortion was typical of pre-legalization abortions in that it was performed by a physician.,