Friday, January 29, 2016

Medical Practitioners' Dead Patients: 1858, 1883, and 1936

Death at the Doctor's House

On Friday, January 29, 1858, Mahitable Ash got a telegram telling her to come to the Bradford, Vermont home of Dr. William Howard. Her daughter, Olive, was terribly ill. Mahitable quickly complied, and was there when her daughter died at about 6 in the evening. Dr. Howard got a coffin for Olive, and her mother and twin sister, Olive, took her body by train to Sutton. On February 3, Olive's body was exhumed for an autopsy, which was performed the following day. The cause of Olive's death was obvious. There was a quantity of pus and her cervix was nearly ragged with injuries. Dr. Frost believed that Olive had hemorrhageddue to the damage to her cervix. Another physician examined the uterus and concluded that the placenta had been retained for some time after the abortion, perhaps as long as seven to ten days. Howard was charged with abortion and manslaughter for Olive's death -- as well as for the abortion death of another patient, Miss Young, two days before Olive had died.

Olivia testified that she had traveled with her sister to Howard's home for the express purpose of the abortion. She had sat on the bed and held Olive's hand, day after day, through the three agonizing abortion attempts Howard made using instruments of some kind. Olive passed fluid at first, then blood, and finally a dead fetus approximately two-thirds the size of a normal newborn, Olivia said. Others at the house gave corroborating testimony, including one young woman who had caught one of the household dogs with a fetus of around 4 or 5 months of gestation that it had dug up from under the outhouse. Another dog grabbed the fetus and ran off with it, so it was never recovered.

Howard's defense relied upon a couple of expert witnesses giving other theories to explain the condition of Olive's uterus and cervix other than efforts to abort a living fetus. The jury convicted him of the abortion but found him not guilty of Olive's resulting death from the abortion.

On the Way Home

On January 29, 1883, a Chicago widow named Adeline Savroch died in a carriage on the way home from having a criminal abortion performed by midwife Bertha Twachaus, who was held without bail for murder in Adeline's death. A saloon keeper named Julius Grosse, and his housekeeper, Celia Arlep, were held as accessories.

To Save Her Life?

Rose Lipner, age 32, mother of 2, died at Riverdale Hospital on January 29, 1936. Rose was buried the next day at Mount Judah Cemetery in Cypress Hills, New York. After the funeral, several people, including an anonymous caller, notified police and the District Attorney's office that the death was suspicious, and Rose was exhumed for an autopsy. The medical examiner determined that Rose had died from an abortion. 

Dr. Maxwell C. Katz, who owned and lived at Riverdale (maternity) Hospital, which he operated, signed a death certificate indicating that Rose had been operated on there for a tumor. Katz was arraigned for second-degree manslaughter. During his trial, his defense brought forth a large number of character witnesses testifying to Katz's 25 years as a physician and his good reputation. Katz did admit to performing an abortion on Rose, but said that it was in an attempt to save her life. The defense was successful, and he was acquitted.

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