Monday, May 20, 2013

Nurse, Doctor, Fake Doctor

Pitkanen was also charged with the abortion deaths of Violet Morse and Margie Fraser. On May 20, 1939, 37-year-old widow Hilja Johnson of Butte, Montana, died from complications of an incomplete abortion. GertrudePitkanen.jpgA surgical nurse, Gertrude Pitkanen (pictured), admitted at the coroner's inquest that Hilja had come to her office, and that she had later visited Hilka at her home and advised her to go to a hospital. Pitkanen was charged with murder in Hilja's death. She fled, but was located about a year later, living near Columbia Gardens. She was brought to court in a wheelchair, pleaded innocent, and was jailed in lieu of $5,000 bond. The charges were dropped in 1940, for reasons not reported. Pitkanen was also charged with the abortion deaths of Violet Morse and Margie Fraser. The fact that Pitkanen married a former Butte police is an interesting tidbit of information that raises questions about how she kept her freedom in spite of her openly practicing abortion facility and black-market baby operation.

Dr. Claude C. Long ran a rather fishy medical practice in San Francisco. He, his wife Isabel, and a relative named Ann Fisher, were charged with the May, 1937 murder of 26-year-old Genevieve Arganbright. Long admitted -- once he'd been caught -- that Genevieve had died while he'd been performing an abortion on her. The jury acquitted Mrs. Long and Ann Fisher, but found Dr. Long guilty of manslaughter. Genevieve was, according to her husband, Perry, about 2 1/2 months pregnant at the time of her death. She had been in good health, athletic, and in the habit of taking long hikes, dancing, swimming, and playing tennis. At about 6:45 on the evening of May 20, she left, telling her husband she going for her abortion. She was planning to go by streetcar to the Valencia Street office, where a driver was to take her to somewhere on Haight Street for the actual surgery. She brought with her $50 that she had borrowed to pay for the abortion.
That was the last time Mr. Arganbright saw his wife. Nobody at Dr. Long's practice called to tell him that his wife had died on the operating table. Long and his accomplices sent Genevieve's body to a mortuary, saying that she'd died of a heart attack and that her family would be in touch. Long and his wife fled. Perry called Long's office and was told that his wife had left. Meanwhile, the mortuary, suspicious because the dead woman's family had not contacted them and the doctor had not brought a death certificate. They contacted the police, who brought the sad news to Genevieve's husband. Long was captured and tried. He tried to argue that the abortion had been legal, performed to save Genevieve's life because she had a heart condition. But the prosecution noted Long's fishy behavior and pointed out that even had the abortion been legal, the appalling injury that he caused to his patient would still warrant prosecution. The jury gave heed to the expert testimony that had Genevieve been ailing, an outpatient abortion was taking undue risks with her life, and returned a guilty verdict. Long was granted his request for a new trial, and his conviction overturned, on the grounds that the judge had improperly instructed the jury, placing the onus on the defense to prove the abortion had been medically indicated, rather than on the prosecution to prove that it had not been.

On May 20, 1870, Mrs Matilda Henningsen, aka Matilda Hunt, died at No. 182 East Seventh Street in Brooklyn from infection caused by an abortion. Mr. A. A. Wolff, from Denmark, purported to be a physician, but is not identified as such in the source document. Six fetuses, along with various instruments, were found in his office. The jury determined that Wolff had performed the fatal abortion.

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