Wednesday, October 05, 2022

October 5: Deathbed Statement Implicates Prominent Physician

On the afternoon of Monday, October 3, 1937, a doctor whose name the authorities would not divulge admitted 22-year-old Eleanor Haynes to Hackensack Hospital. She was suffering from peritonitis.

In a dying statement, Eleanor said that 55-year-old Dr. P. Ralph McFeely had performed an abortion on her in his office at 242 Palisade Avenue in Bogota on September 25. 

Eleanor died at 4:30 on the afternoon of October 5.

Eleanor's fiancé, 22-year-old Eugene King, claimed no knowledge of an abortion.

McFeely, a school and police physician who was also president of the local PTA, was arrested. He said that although he was treating Eleanor for a "minor ailment," he had not performed an abortion. He was released on $5,000 bail. (c. $103,000 in 2022)

In a statement to the press, McFeely said, "The accusation against me is outrageous. All I ask is that judgment be suspended until I have the opportunity to disprove it thoroughly. The girl did visit my office for an examination and I treated her for an ovarian condition, but nothing more. I have been a resident of Bogota for 25 years, 22 of which I have spent in practice there, as well as being active in community affairs."

He added, "My reputation in private life and professional practice has never been questioned. Revelation of the facts in this case will clearly demonstrate my innocence and I hope that they will be disclosed as speedily as possible."

A grand jury met in December and heard evidence for two days. Among the witnesses were the county physician who had performed the autopsy, the assistant prosecutor who had taken Eleanor's dying declaration, and Eleanor's fiancé.

After hearing only from the prosecution, the grand jury declared that there was no evidence beyond Eleanor's deathbed claims that McFeely had been the one to cause the fatal injuries.  The community clearly believed in his innocence, since he resumed his practice and civic duties after the charges were dropped.

Watch Why Did She Implicate Dr. McFeely? on YouTube.


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