Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Failures of the Law, 1917 and 1986

Chicago, 1917

On December 31, 1917, 40-year-old homemaker Victoria Chmileuski died in her Chicago home from an abortion perpetrated by Wilhemena Benn, whose profession is given only as "abortion provider," though she was actually a licensed midwife. Benn was acquitted on March 7, 1918. Benn had been previously charged but later acquitted in the June, 1916 abortion death of Rosie Kawera, and implicated the March 2, 1906 abortion death of Otilia Winker. I don't know the outcome of the Winker case.

Chicago, 1986

Headshot of a bald, middle-aged Black man in a white shirt and dark necktie
Arnold Bickham
Eighteen-year-old Sylvia Moore underwent a safe and legal abortion at the hands of Arnold Bickham on December 31, 1986 at his Urgent Medical Care Clinic in Chicago. She was in the second trimester of her pregnancy, but Bickham used a suction technique suitable for a first-trimester pregnancy. After the abortion, 48-year-old Bickham gave Sylvia repeated injections of Demerol because she was reporting severe abdominal cramps.

According to Sylvia's mother, Sylvia was bleeding, weak, and unable to walk. When Sylvia tried to get to her feet and collapsed, Bickham called her "lazy," put her in a wheelchair, and physically ejected her from his Chicago clinic. Sylvia's mother took her to a nearby hospital, where staff tried in vain to save Sylvia, who had arrived with no pulse and no blood pressure. An emergency hysterectomy was done to remove her lacerated uterus, which still had a plastic instrument embedded in a 6.5 cm laceration. Sylvia also had a 2.2 cm laceration of her vagina. Despite the surgery, she bled to death.

Bickham claimed that he "didn't think there was anything wrong" with Sylvia, and said that he'd merely been helping her with the wheelchair. He blamed Sylvia's death on the hospital, saying, "They were successful in repairing the damage done in the abortion, but in doing that, they perforated an artery causing there to be blood loss in the chest cavity. That was something she was not able to survive."

The autopsy report, however, noted the chest tube incision but noted "lungs are well expanded and the pleural cavities are free of fluid and adhesions." An attorney with the Department of Professional Regulation said, "This patient should never have been allowed to leave Bickham's clinic with her mother."

The postmortum report said: "The circumstances of injury, review of the Medical records, the findings at autopsy examination, and subsequent investigation of the circumstances of the case provide evidence of gross negligence and abandonment on the part of the original treating physician. In consideration of the above, the manner of death is determined to be Homicide." However, no charges were pressed against Bickham.

The suit filed by Sylvia's survivors noted that Bickahm had failed to perform an ultrasound, and failed to have adequate staff or equipment. The specimen of abortion tissue sent from clinic contained segments of placental tissue, umbilical cord, and fetal intestinal parts and liver.

Sylvia left one child motherless.

Bickham's license was revoked by Illinois in October of 1988 due to Sylvia's death. He was arrested in September of 1989 for practicing medicine without license, and sentenced to 30 months probation and 2,600 hours of community service in lieu of 6 months jail, in addition to a $10,000 fine.

Fortunately, Bickham eventually hung up his canula. On the downside, he became a pubic school administrator, still in a position where his poor judgment might cause harm. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Two Historic Deaths I Just Found

When researching the January 12, 1900, abortion death of Ida Henry, at the hands of Dr. Paulina Bechtel, I found two more deaths attributed to Bechtel. 

I had known that she had been tried in the October 3, 1895 abortion death of Mrs. Kittie Bassett, and implicated in the 1900 death of Barbara Shelgrenand the 1911 death of Mary Thorning

The two other deaths attributed to Dr. Bechtel are Carrie Marskl, who died in September of 1904 and Mary Orning, who died in December of 1911.

I've been unable to determine why Bechtel wasn't incarcerated after these deaths.

A Mystery Doctor in Chicago

While looking for more information on abortion anniversaries I stumbled across several other abortion deaths. This one involved a hospital that did clandestine abortions.

Dr. W. Eugene Shelton was charged with murder in the February, 1927 abortion death of 23-year-old Mrs. Stella Lickerman and five other women whose names I've been unable to determine.

Shelton wasn't arrested until October of 1928.

Shelton ran two "hospital flats" in Chicago, one on 6343 Halsted St. and one at 6341 Halsted St.

Two nurses were also arrested and charged with conspiracy. Nurse Sylvia Atcherly was arrested at the address while nurse Ophelia Roper Griffith worked at the 6341 address.

Two other women were arrested and released after three days of questioning: Mrs. Gertrude Vollert, who was a cook at one of the flats, and Pearl Hawkins, a maid. Mrs. Vollert had been arrested because, clad in her white cook's uniform, she had been mistaken at first for another nurse. She indicated that she was only a substitute cook, filling in for the regular cook on occasion. 

The raid took place based on a lead provided by a barber named Elmer Duval. Duval had married Sylvia Atcherly, the nurse, in 1924 and lived with her at the hospital until the couple split up. His evident motive for spilling the beans was that he hated Shelton.

Duval said that Shelton had fired one of his nurses, Helen Goode, blaming her for Stella's death and saying that it would cost him $5,000 to "square that case."

Police found indications that Shelton would perpetrate the abortions, and if the women suffered complications he would transport them in his car to a hospital on Chicago's west side. 

Based on Duval's statements, police began an investigation that led to the raid. They found two young women in hospital beds in a front room of the flat. Both had recently undergone abortions. After giving statements they were transferred to the county hospital for care. Shelton had charged each woman $200.

Duval said that the first woman to die at Shelton's hands had died in December of 1926.

Duval  said that Stella Lickerman was the second abortion patient to die. He provided information that led police to her family. They indicated that she had been treated by Shelton, and that another doctor who examined her later found evidence of an abortion.

The only other information I've been able to obtain is that Duval said that one of the victims was 18 years old. Strangely enough, all mention of Shelton seems to vanish from the records after his indictment.

Recently added sources:

One Criminal, Four Safe and Legal, All Equally Dead

On December 29, 1907, 19-year-old Marcie Mayer died in St. Elizabeth's hospital in Chicago from complications of a criminal abortion. Mary Bing, a midwife, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to Joliet. A man named John Mansfield was also held by the coroner's jury, but acquitted by the judge. Marcie's abortion was atypical in that it was not performed by a physician.

"Beth" was 23 years old when she traveled from Massachusetts to take advantage of New York's liberalized abortion law in 1971. Beth's doctor chose saline abortion, which is performed by injecting a strong salt solution into the amniotic fluid. The fetus inhales and swallows the fluid, which causes massive internal bleeding and death. The woman then goes into labor. The abortion was initiated by injecting saline into Beth's uterus. But instead of the amniotic sac, the saline went into Beth's bloodstream. Beth immediately began to have seizures and went into a coma. She was pronounced dead on December 29, 1971.

Mary Ann Page was 36 years old when she went into cardiac arrest during an abortion/tubal ligation performed under general anesthesia on December 28, 1977. Both procedures were completed, then Mary Ann was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Hospital. Mary Ann suffered several more cardiac arrests while she was in the ICU. She was pronounced dead on December 29, 1977.

On December 29, 1987, 31-year-old Sheila Watley had a safe, legal abortion at Concerned Women's Center in Houston, Texas. She was 17 weeks pregnant, and had one child. The abortion was performed by Dr. Richard Cunningham. About four minutes into the procedure, Sheila went into cardio-respiratory arrest. She was pronounced dead later that day. The cause of death was listed as an amniotic fluid embolism, which is when fluid from the uterus gets into the woman's blood stream. From a search on information about Cunningham's license, a lawsuit was filed against him that might have pertained to Sheila's death; the case in question was dismissed, according to information Cunningham gave the Texas medical board. 

Hoa Thuy "Vivian" Tran, like Holly Patterson, got abortion drugs at a Planned Parenthood. Vivian was 22 years old, and died December 29, 2003, six days into the abortion process. She‘d been given the drugs on December 23 at the Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood facility. The autopsy showed that she died of sepsis. Vivian‘s husband is suing the drug company, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernadino Counties, and The Population Council Inc., in Orange County Superior Court. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Kimberlee Ward said that PP has "absolute confidence in this method of abortion," which is hardly surprising. After all, Vivian‘s fetus died, leaving PP with nothing to complain about. Other women identified as having died of infection deaths after RU-486 deaths in the Los Angeles area: Chanelle Bryant, and Oriane Shevin. Chanelle got her abortion drugs at a Planned Parenthood, and Oriane and Vivian got theirs from National Abortion Federation members.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Point I'd Missed for Years

Her Medical Clinic wasn't even a real clinic. It truly deserved the name "fake clinic." If I'm reading it right, it was just Leo Kenneally's private practice, just a doctor's office.

Her Medical Clinic is where the fatal abortion were perpetrated on Donna Heim, Liliana Cortez, and Michelle Thames, and where Maria Soto died of injuries after being left unattended.

Donna was the first to die, in August of 1986. She was given medication that was not appropriate for a patient with asthma and then was not properly resuscitated. Her mother, Barbara Heim, told the Daily News of Los Angeles County, "I thought they'd close the door so no one else would die." But a month after Donna's fatal abortion Liliana Cortez, another woman with asthma, also died after an abortion at Her Medical Clinic. Eighteen-year-old Michelle suffered a seizure during her abortion at Her Medical Clinic on November 17, 1987. She died later that day. Her family filed suit, claiming that Her Medical Clinic staff had made inadequate attempts to resuscitate Michelle.

The battle over Kenneally's medical license turned political after it was suspended by the medical board over the appalling conditions at Her Medical Clinic. Former state medical board executive director Dixon Arnett's said that Leo F. Kenneally's case was "the most egregious I have seen, bar none." But a judge restored Kenneally's license on the grounds that he was doing a public service "providing abortions" in an "underserved area."

The investigation of patient deaths wasn't the first time Kenneally got in trouble. His license had been suspended in 1979 for Medi-Cal theft, and previously in 1975 for records-keeping violations.

A Mysterious Death in 1921

On December 28, 1921, 30-year-old housekeeper Belle Keehn died at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital from lung abscesses and septicemia caused by an abortion perpetrated by an unknown doctor on or about November 27.
Documents are unclear as to how it was determined that the perpetrator was a doctor. The hospital was a reputable facility, not a seedy abortion mill, so Belle would have received superior care as doctors tried to save her life.
Keep in mind that things that things we take for granted, like antibiotics and blood banks, were still in the future. For more about abortion in this era, see Abortion in the 1920s.
For more on pre-legalization abortion, see The Bad Old Days of Abortion

Friday, December 27, 2019

1985 Death, My Original Page Lost

Arnetta Hardaway was 18 years old when she had an abortion performed by Dr. George Tucker in Atlanta on December 23, 1985.

Arnetta continued to bleed, and developed infection, after her abortion. On December 27, she died from infection and hemorrhage, according to the medical examiner. Tucker was investigated by the medical board for failure to meet minimal standards of care, and was indicted for performing an illegal third-trimester abortion. At the time of Arnetta's abortion, Georgia law required that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals and third trimester abortions were only allowed for purported danger to the mother's life. (A third-trimester life-of-the-mother abortion is nonsensical on its face, since nobody would reasonably think that the mother would benefit medically from additional steps taken to ensure a dead baby prior to ending the pregnancy safely for the woman.) District Attorney Lewis Slaton characterized Arnetta's abortion as "way late."

Tucker had an active medical board order on his license as of January 4, 2002. The Georgia medical board web site does not reveal the details of the order.

(Unfortunately, Arnetta's page on the Cemetery of Choice was lost when Wikispaces closed. I'd welcome any information anybody saved on their web site.)

Fortunately, though I had lost the original page, I found more information about Arnetta's death on a newspaper search and have included the clippings and information.

Newly added sources:

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Update on the 1975 Deaths of Cheryl and Jacqueline

As I was looking through the Cemetery of Choice for stories that needed more information, I found an article on the death of Cheryl Tubbs. The article also included information about the death later that year of Jacqueline Bailey, also after an abortion at the same facility. I decided to check for more information on Jackie's death specifically and found more. Here are the updated versions along with the articles I found online.

Cheryl Tubbs

At 9:50 a.m. on August 6, 1975, 29-year-old Cheryl L. Tubbs was admitted to Pacific Glen Hospital in Los Angeles County for a saline abortion. She experienced heavy vaginal bleeding after this safe, legal abortion, so she was transferred by private ambulance to White Memorial Hospital at 7:00 pm. on August 7. This ambulance ride took her past at least three other hospitals, including County USC Women's Hospital.

Cheryl continued to bleed profusely, and twice went into cardiac arrest. Staff performed a paracentesis on her to remove blood and fluids from her abdomen. About an hour after midnight, staff could no longer detect any blood pressure. For an hour they tried heart massage, to no avail. Cheryl was pronounced dead at 2:30AM on August 8.
An autopsy revealed that Cheryl's uterus had ruptured during the abortion, spilling blood and uterine material into her abdomen. She had bled to death.

Cheryl's family filed a $1 million lawsuit against Pacific Glen and Dr. W. Constantine Mitchell on behalf of her three minor children. The children were left in the custody of Cheryl's parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Gourley.
Two years later, Jackie Bailey also bled to death from a ruptured uterus caused by a saline abortion at Pacific Glen.

Jacqueline Bailey

At 11:45 am.m.On December 1 or 2, 1977, 29-year-old Jacqueline Bailey was injected with saline by Dr. Airo Tunde Eboreime for an instillation abortion at the 22-bed Pacific Glen Hospital in Los Angeles County. She was 20 weeks pregnant. 

Five hours after Jackie expelled the dead baby, her condition appeared grave. She suffered cardiac arrest. Shortly after midnight on December 3, she was transferred 12 miles to Memorial Hospital of Glendale.

Two patients who were in the same room with Jackie at Pacific Glen told investigators that no physician provided any attention to Jackie between the injection of the saline and the arrival of paramedics to transport her for emergency care. Jackie had called out for help, they said, but she was ignored and somebody even shut the door so that nurses wouldn't be able to hear her. The call button on Jackie's bed was inoperable. Pacific Glen's own records also indicated that Jackie had not been seen by a physician either. It was nurses who noticed that she appeared to have gone into cardiac arrest.

Doctors at Memorial suspected a uterine laceration, so they performed exploratory surgery. The bleeding was so profuse that they then performed a hysterectomy in a last-ditch attempt to save her life. Jackie died at 4:25 a.m. on December 3. The attending physician said that he had found 3,500 to 4,000 ccs of old blood in Jackie's abdomen.

The autopsy report found that Jackie's uterus had ruptured during the abortion, and that her uterine artery had been lacerated. She had bled to deathfrom her injuries. Her grandmother, Hassie Holden, demanded an investigation. She told the Los Angeles Times that she didn't even get notified that Jackie was in trouble until about an hour before her death, when Eborieme called to tell her that Jackie was in serious condition from a hemorrhage. "My son was getting ready to go to the hospital when we got another call that she was dead."

Mrs. Holden also said that Jackie's brother had mistakenly gone to Pacific Glen looking for her and got the runaround from staff. The family never found out that she had been taken to another hospital until they got the $84 ambulance bill. 

Eight of nine jurors at the inquest held that Jackie died "at the hands of others, other than by accident," while the holdout held that Jackie's death had been accidental.

Dr. Gerald Bernstein of Women's Hospital told the Los Angeles Times that in his opinion, "the patient did not receive appropriate medical care and this was an avoidable death."

Due to the two deaths, authorities announced that they would investigate how many of Pacific Glen's abortion patients were discharged home versus transported to other hospitals to be treated for complications. Medi-Cal patients were funneled to Pacific Glen Hospital through Pacific Glen Family Planning Clinic after referrals by social workers at the county health office. A social worker at the office admitted that they had concerns about the care patients were getting but continued to refer them because Pacific Glen accepted Medi-Cal.

Newly added sources:

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Lots of New Info on Giseline Lafontant

Originally I only had the briefest write-up on the death of Giseline Lafontant. Today, while looking for information on a different woman I found a reference to Giseline's death and this led to a treasure-trove of information. The new write-up is below, including the news clippings.

On October 9, 1993, 25-year-old Giselene Lafontant, an immigrant from Haiti, underwent an abortion by a Dr. Irwin Scher at Gynecare in Monsey, New York. She was 9 or 10 weeks pregnant. Scher started the abortion at 10:50 a.m. and finished at 11:05 a.m. About 10-15 minutes later a nurse in the recovery room tried to awaken Giseline to no avial. The patient had only a faint pulse. The nurse summoned Scher, who began CPR and summoned an ambulance. Two minutes of CPR restored a pulse and blood pressure.

She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital and placed on a respirator. Efforts to save her life failed; Giselene died on October 28.

The Medical Examiner, Dr. Frederick Zugibe, found that Giseline had been healthy prior to her abortion and should have sailed through without any trouble. There were also no signs of abortion injury, which led Dr. Zugibe to suspect anesthesia complications.

Scher told investigators that Gynecare's procedures called for vital signs to be checked every 10 - 15 minutes while patients are in recovery. He didn't know if anybody had checked Giseline's vitals. If anybody did check, they didn't chart them. Dr. Zugibe noted that no pulse oximeter was being used to monitor Giseline's pulse and blood oxygen levels. This was a failure to follow appropriate standards of care.

Since Giseline's pulse was restored after two minutes of CPR, and brain damage sets in after six to eight minutes, the failure to use a pulse oximeter meant a failure to capture Giseline's distress until it was too late.

Giseline had come to the United States from Haiti about eight years before her death. She worked packing dog biscuits at Triumph Pet Industries. The company's owner, Milton Gittleman, said, "She was a good employee, a lovely person. I have nothing but good things to say about her. We were all shocked."

Giseline left a 2-year-old son motherless. Her family brought her body to Haiti for burial.

Newly added sources: 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Clipping for Natalie Meyers

I found an article about the death of sixteen-year-old Natalie Meyers, who was brought to San Vicente Hospital in Los Angeles by her mother for a safe and legal abortion on October 21, 1972. My previous sources was the LA County Coroner's Report. 

Milton Gotlib injected saline into Natalie's uterus on the 21st.

The saline would cause an abortion by poisoning the fetus. The death of the fetus would then induce labor.

On October 22, Natalie expelled the dead baby but retained the placenta. She had trouble breathing and suffered abdominal pain, so San Vicente staff transferred Natalie to County-USC Medical Center. Doctors there said that she arrived at about 10:45 p.m., in "extremely critical condition."

Natalie was in shock when she arrived at County-USC. She underwent a D&C there, but remained in shock from infection in her uterus. On October 26, a hysterectomy was performed to try to control the infection, to no avail. Natalie was pronounced dead at 9:35AM on October 27.

The autopsy found most of Natalie's internal organs swollen and hemorrhagic. Death was attributed to hyaline membrane disease brought on by the abortion. 

Natalie is one of many women to die at one of Edward Allred's facilities. Others known to have died after abortion at Allred's facilities include: