Sunday, February 17, 2013

Four Criminal Deaths, 1890 - 1239

On February 16, 1929, Mrs. Ruth Weir, of East Orange, New Jersey, died at Orange Memorial Hospital of sepsis contracted through a criminal abortion. Dr. Maurice Sturm was arrested when Ruth implicated him in a deathbed statement. Sturm admitted to performing the abortion, but insisted that it had not been illegal because it was necessary to save Ruth's life. The District Attorney claimed that Sturm failed to keep proper records, including concealing names and appointments of patients. Sturm, who was later acquitted of the manslaughter charge in Ruth's death, alleged during his trial that a judge had demanded bribe money from him to dismiss the case, but that $1000 he had given the judge was a gift and not part of the bribe money. This case raises several important points we would do well to remember:
  • The majority of criminal abortions were performed by physicians, not amateurs.
  • If the doctor thought the abortion was necessary to save the mother's life, all he had to do to protect himself from prosecution was keep adequate records.
  • When an abortionist killed a patient before legalization, the law would look at him closely and not shrug the death off as unimportant.

On February 16, 1925, 28-year-old homemaker Agnes Crowe died in Chicago's West Side Hospital from a criminal abortion performed that day. The coroner indicated that a female midwife was responsible for Agnes' death, but did not name the guilty party.

The testimony E. G. Noah gave to the Allegheny County coroner's jury did little to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of his 34-year-old wife, Helen Noah. He testified about bleeding, a catheter, and things his wife had told him and that he had observed over the course of several days prior to finally summoning an ambulance and admitting her to Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital on February 9. There she was treated for massive infection until her death at 2:58 p.m. On February 16, 1917. Evidently the coroner's jury was able to make enough sense of Mr. Noah's testimony to conclude that Helen died of “Puerpueral Septicemia Following Self Inflicted Abortion.”

On February 16, 1890, Mrs. Mary Keegan died from complications of an illegal abortion performed that day. Mary died at the location where the abortion was perpetrated. Mrs. Annie Schneider was arrested and held by the Coroner's Jury. She is described as employed in an unidentified profession.

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