Monday, December 26, 2016

Second Deaths Each for a Doctor and a Midwife

A Doctor's Second Dead Patient, 1932

In late December of 1932, 20-year-old schoolteacher Myrtle Gardner of Four Oaks, North Carolina checked into a Raleigh motel room with her brother-in-law, George D. Clifton. The two presented themselves as a married couple.The following day, the two went to the home of Mrs. Carrie C. Forsythe, where they were to meet 45-year-old Dr. Mike Roberson, of Durham, for an abortion.

After the abortion, Mrytle took ill. Clifton took her to a hospital, where she was admitted under the name Mrs. George Clifton. She died from septic infection caused by an incomplete abortion on the evening of December 26. Dr. P. G. Fox reported her death to the police after Mrytle gave a deathbed statement at the hospital to him, another doctor, and a nurse.

Mrs. Forsythe, age 63 and described as "a gray-haired, middle-aged Raleigh woman," was also charged with murder in Myrtle's death. She was convicted and sentenced to 2 to 3 years for counseling and procuring the abortion. She collapsed and had to be carried to her cell after hearing the sentence. She spent the night "in a highly hysterical condition. Mrs. Forsythe had been charged previously as an accessory to abortion. Clifton was charged as an accessory in Myrtle's death as well.

Roberson was originally charged with first degree murder for Myrtle's death, but the charge was reduced to second-degree murder. Roberson's wife provided his alibi, saying that he was at home sick the night Myrtle's abortion was perpetrated. His defense also asserted that the prosecution had not proved that Myrtle had actually been pregnant.

Roberson pleaded nolo contendere and was given a 3 to five year prison sentence. The medical board revoked his license, but successfully convinced the court to suspend his prison sentence with the stipulation that he never practice medicine again, both on the grounds that he'd no longer be a danger if he stopped doing abortions and on the grounds that he was suffering a heart ailment and thus would not fare well in prison.

This was Roberson's fourth arrest on abortion charges. He had been convicted in the 1928 abortion death of Irma Robinson, but won a new trial on appeal.

A Midwife's Second Dead Patient, 1918

Rose Kulamer's husband, John, said that on Saturday, November 30, 1918, she'd told him that she'd been to see “a woman in the West End Pgh.” who had used “a rubber tube” to cause an abortion. She was taken to Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania by ambulance on Monday, December 2.

According to Dr. Sidney A. Chalfant, 33-year-old Rose denied an abortion on admission, but later admitted that she and a friend had gone to a woman on Pittsburgh's South Side for an abortion. Her uterus was enlarged to three months, her cervix was dilated to admit two fingers, and a large piece of cotton, that had evidently been present “for some time,” was in her vagina.

Rose was taken to the operating room, where the dead three- to four-month fetus was removed and her cervix was packed with gauze. The next day surgery was performed to remove the placenta.

Over the next four to five days, Rose's temperature fell to normal, but then it started to rise again. Rose reported pain in her lower left leg from old inflamed varicose veins. Her temperature rose and stayed elevated for about two weeks, then fell and remained normal for about five days.

On Christmas morning, Rose seemed fine, but around midnight on Christmas night Chalfant was called in because Rose's condition had taken a sudden downturn. He arrived to find that she had vomited and been incontinent in both her bowels and bladder. She was unconscious, with a weak, irregular pulse. Chalfant diagnosed a pulmonary embolism and remained with Rose for about an hour, during which she seemed to be improving. But the next time Chalfant checked on her, she was showing signs of brain damage from an embolism. She held on until about 1 p.m. December 26. She left five children motherless.

News clipping headshot of a youngish white woman wearing a tall, pale-colored hat
Dr. Charles Schildecker performed the autopsy in the hospital morgue. Rose, 5'6” and 175 pounds, showed no external marks of injury. However, her fallopian tubes and ovaries were enlarged and gangrenous, especially on the left. The lining of her uterus was inflamed, gangrenous, and decomposed. Her pelvic veins were filled with septic thrombi. All of her pelvic tissues were highly inflamed, showing signs of recent pregnancy. Schildecker determined that the cause of death had been septicemia from an abortion. The coroner's jury recommended that the person responsible, the mysterious woman on the South Side, be identified and arrested.

Police identified the mystery woman as midwife Marie Treytl. At the time of Rose's death, another of Treytl's patients was in critical condition herself as a result of an abortion. Treytl had also been implicated in the 1915 abortion death of Margaret McCreary.

Treytl had previously been implicated in the 1915 abortion death of Margaret McCreary.

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