Deliberate Overdose Kills Patient
When 23-year-old Stacy Ruckman had just gotten a new job when she went to Scott Barrett for a safe and legal abortion on February 20, 1988. Unfortunately, she didn't know how he anesthetized his patients at Central Health Center for Women in Springfield, Missouri.
Barrett began the abortion at around 5 p.m. During the abortion, Stacy stopped breathing, Barrett and his staff were unable to revive her.
Another source had Stacy on the table for half an hour without mishap, but collapsing when she got off the table at 6 p.m. This story is less than credible, since abortions don't usually taken an entire hour.
Staff called an ambulance, but the medics found Stacy in full cradio-respiratory arrest, with unresponsive pupils. The resuscitation attempts made by paramedics included suctioning "copious amounts of blood" from Stacy's airway, inserting an endotrecheal tube, administering medications and oxygen, putting in an IV, and using a defibrillator.
They transferred Stacy to the emergency room, where she had a racing pulse and fixed, dilated pupils. She was unable to breathe on her own. The hospital transfused her with packed red blood cells and gave her additional IV fluids, but her EEG "revealed findings consistent with brain death"
Stacy's parents, who hadn't even known she'd been pregnant, rushed to the hospital to find that they daughter they'd loved so well was gone. They agreed with the doctors to remove life support, and Stacy was pronounced dead at 11:34 p.m.
That night when we walked out of the hospital I just felt like I left part of me in there. Part of me was dead,'' Stacy's mother Judith said. You carry a child for nine months and something like that happens, you feel like you lost part of yourself, part of your body. And you're never going to get it back.''
Stacy's father requested an autopsy, which found toxic concentrations of Lidocaine in Stacy's blood. Her serum level, as tested in blood drawn 2 hour after the abortion, was 8.1 ug/ml, or more than five times the therapeutic level of 1.5 ug/ml. An expert who testified later estimated that, based on how fast the body metabolizes Lidocaine, the amount in her system at the time of the abortion could have been as high as 16 ug/ml, over ten times the therapeutic dose.
In order to rule out other causes of death, the coroner examined ten times the normal number of specimens, looking for signs of an amniotic fluid embolism. He could find no such evidence. He also found no evidence of "any naturally occurring disease process which could account for Ms. Ruckman's death." What he did find was "history of a grand mal seizure and cardiac arrest after a 'therapeutic' abortion at 13.8 weeks gestation." Stacy also had suffered cerebral and pulmonary edema (swelling of the brain and lungs), pulmonary hemorrhage (excessive bleeding in the lungs), clotted and unclotted blood in her mouth and nose, around 55 cc of bloody fluid surrounding her lungs, and another 200 cc's of bloody fluid in her pelvic cavity.
Stacy's parents sued. An anesthesiologist was asked under oath to give any and all possible medically valid reasons for administering that high a dose of Lidocaine; he repeatedly answered that he could think of none. The only reason he could think of -- not a medically valid one -- was to speed up the abortion. Barrett's nurse testified that he tupically did 35-40 abortions per day, at $300 each.
She, and other staff, also testified that Barrett routinely gave patients massive dosed of Lidocaine in order to render them unconscious.
The court found that Barrett altered or falsified Stacy's records in attempt to cover his culpability. The Medical board likewise implicated Barrett in Stacy's death.
A jury awarded Stacy's parents $25.3 million for the wrongful death of their daughter -- $330,000 in actual damages, and $25 million in aggravated damages. However, Barrett carried no insurance and was not represented at all during the trial; he himself failed to show up.
Scant Info on Chicago Abortion
On February 20, 1927, 23-year-old Angenita Hargarten died in her Chicago home from an abortion performed there that day. Midwives Anna Trezek and Frances Raz were held by the coroner, Trezek as the principal and Raz as her accomplice.
Travel Plans Lead to Fatal Abortion
Ada Williams, about 27 years old, was living in Denver in early 1916 when she got a letter from her mother in Nebraska. Nearly 50, Ada's mother was going to give birth soon and feared that she might die in childbirth, so she asked Ada to come to her.
Ada, pregnant herself, decided to have an abortion before she left in order to facilitate the journey. With her husband, Thomas, she went to Dr. Noble O. Hamilton on Sunday, February 13, asking about proceeding with the abortion Ada had already discussed with him. Hamilton told her to return the following day, and told Thomas to bring $25, which was how much he charged for delivering a baby and seemed to be a fair amount to charge for aborting one.
Ada returned as instructed at about 9:40 in the morning. Hamilton later admitted that he examined Ada, including a vaginal exam, and inserted a medicated tampon, but denied that he had performed any abortion.
On Tuesday morning, Thomas stopped by Hamilton's office on the way to work and paid $10 toward the abortion. After Thomas had gone, Ada got up and went to visit a friend, who later reported that she seemed ill.
Wednesday came and Ada stayed in bed, where she labored and delivered a dead three-month fetus. She sent for Hamilton, who wrapped the dead baby in paper and burned it in the stove. He gave aftercare instructions and left.
On Thursday, Ada was showing signs of going septic. Hamilton diagnosed her as having typhoid fever. The next day he brought in a Dr. Gundrum to consult about the typhoid diagnosis but said nothing about the abortion, not even to claim that Ada had miscarried.
Dr. Monson came to check on Ada on Friday and found her in grave condition. Hamilton still tried to keep the abortion a secret but Monson managed to ferret out the information from Ada somehow. He admitted Ada to a hospital, where she died of sepsis the evening of Sunday, February 20.
When convicted and sentenced to ten to eleven years, Hamilton swore his innocence. The verdict in the Ada Williams case was upheld on appeal.
An Inadequately Documented Deathbed Statement
An inquest was held in the February 20, 1856 death of Catharine DeBreuxal.
A witness testified that Catharine suffered "a violent hemorrhage" at Dr. Cobel's house in New York, where she had remained for a few days. The medical examiner concluded that Catharine had died from an infection.
"An effort was made by the defense to show that the deceased was a woman's bad character; but the evidence on that point was not admitted on account of its irrelevance."
The coroner's jury called for the arrest of Cobel, as well as of Francis Legoupil, as an accessory. Cobel had been permitted to confront Catherine on her deathbed, challenging her and asking whey she had named him as her abortionist. She replied, "Because you operated on me."
Cobel was acquitted in April because Catharine's deposition was not taken formally before her death, and there was no further evidence that Cobel was the guilty party. He remained free to be charged with the abortion death of Amelia Weber two years later.