Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1988: Abortion turns miracle to double tragedy

Allegra Roseberry, age 41, had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Allegra was admitted to Emory Hospital for assessment and surgery in anticipation of admission to an experimental cancer treatment program. There, a sonogram during surgery revealed a 23-week pregnancy, much to everyone's surprise since Allegra had undergone fertility drug treatment in order to conceive her son Matthew 20 years earlier. Her liver specialist, family doctor, and gynecologist all failed to detect her pregnancy despite amenorrhea, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, and nausea because these symptoms were attributed to the cancer and other ailments.

Allegra's doctors offered safe and legal abortion as her only alternative, saying that the fetus was "doomed" due to Allegra's ailments, that the pregnancy would render her ineligible for the experimental treatment, and that the pregnancy was damaging her fragile health and would greatly hasten her death. No one arranged for a consult with a perinatologist (specialist in treating pregnancies with high risks to mother or baby) or a high-risk obstetrician. The options of continuing the pregnancy and/or premature delivery of the infant were not offered or discussed.

Allegra was transferred to Emory's Crawford Long Hospital for the abortion. Young W. Ahn initiated the abortion by prostaglandin suppository on August 8, 1988. On August 9, Allegra expelled the dead baby, whom she and her husband named Amy Ann.

Allegra developed sepsis from the abortion, and died on August 13.

An autopsy revealed that Amy had been normal.

The liver specialist contended that Allegra would have aborted Amy even if she had known the child was healthy in order to be eligible for the experimental program. Allegra's gynecologist claimed that the reason for the abortion was damage to the fetus due to radiation therapy and also mentioned chemotherapy, neither of which Allegra had undergone. All defendants held that Allegra could not have survived long enough to deliver Amy alive anyway.

  • Could Amy have survived if delivered at 23 weeks?
    No. Babies are not viable until at least 24 weeks of gestation.
    Yes, but only a tiny chance, less than 1%.
    Yes. Amy had a better than 10% chance of survival at 23 weeks.
    Yes. Babies that young just need a lot of help and extra time in the NICU, but they routinely survive.

    The jury rendered a verdict against the liver specialist for the wrongful death of baby Amy, but returned no verdict for the wrongful death of Allegra due to their assumption that the cancer would have killed her soon anyway. Evidently they did not consider the time she could have spent being a mother to her baby daughter to be of any value.

    Allegra's was not the only tragic death caused by doctors who recommended (or excused) abortion as a life-saving or health-preserving option for the mother:

    • Anjelica Duarte sought an abortion on the advice of her physician, and ended up dying under the care of a quack.
    • Barbara Hoppert died after an abortion recommended due to a congenital heart problem.
    • Christin Gilbert died after an abortion George Tiller holds was justified on grounds of maternal health.
    • Erika Peterson died in 1961 when her doctors obtained her husband's permission to perform a "therapeutic" abortion.
    • "Molly" Roe died in 1975 when her doctors made the dubious decision to perform a saline abortion to improve her chances of surviving a lupus crisis.

  • What percent of abortions are performed to try to save the life of the mother?
    There are no definitive statistics, but the number is less than 3%
    Peer-reviewed research by high-risk obstetricians puts the number at about 3%.
    Extensive research puts the number at about 10%.
    About 1/3 of abortions are performed because the woman's doctor has serious concerns that the pregnancy threatens her health or life.

  • What percent of abortions are performed because there is something wrong with the unborn baby?
    There are no definitive statistics, but the number is less than 1%.
    There are no definitive statistics, but the number is slightly more than 3%.
    Extensive research shows that about 5% of abortions are performed to prevent the birth of a severely ill or disabled baby.
    About 10% of abortions are performed because tests have shown that the baby has a serious birth defect.

    For more abortion deaths, visit the Cemetery of Choice:

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  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    1st question d, then c
    2nd - out by 7%
    3rd my guess was way out.