Saturday, February 02, 2013

1916: Double Death by Denver Doctor

In early 1916, two women lay dying at Mercy Hospital in Denver. Police and doctors concluded that both women were suffering from abortions perpetrated by Dr. Bennett Graff at his offices at the Panama rooming house there in Denver, where he had his offices.

RuthCampDenverPost.pngRuth Camp, whose abortion had been perpetrated on January 27, died on February 2. The second woman, 24-year-old Beulah Hatch, lingered until February 18.

Ruth had come to Denver from Medicine Bow, Wyoming, on a visit. Her husband, a rancher, had wanted the baby. A friend of the family found out about Ruth's plans and sent him a telegraph. Mr. Camp had to drive 45 miles just to catch a train to Denver, arriving too late.

Graff insisted during the trial that a woman named Mrs. Fitch had called him to the boarding house, where he'd found Ruth ailing. He said Mrs. Fitch had accompanied him and Ruth to his office for an examination and "found that it was necessary to operate upon her, which he did." Had the jury believed his story they would have acquitted him.

Graff was found guilty of murder in Ruth's death, and sentenced to 11 - 13 years in prison. Graff protested "stoutly" and appealed the conviction.

Graff was also charged in the death of Mrs. Beulah Hatch.

Note, please, that with overall public health issues such as doctors not using proper aseptic techniques, lack of access to blood transfusions and antibiotics, and overall poor health to begin with, there was likely little difference between the performance of a legal abortion and illegal practice, and the aftercare for either type of abortion was probably equally unlikely to do the woman much, if any, good. For more information about early 20th Century abortion mortality, see Abortion Deaths 1910-1919.

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