Thursday, November 10, 2022

The unsavory career of Dr. Joseph Rucker


Rucker sets up an abortion clinic, Snowden Medical Associates, on W. McNichols Street in Detroit. His staff includes an ex-convict, Eugene Ralph Marra, who has no medical training but calls himself "Dr. Mike Morrison" and performs abortions at the clinic. 


May 14, 1974: Rucker performs an abortion on 21-year-old Corrine. He managed to shove the head of her five or six month fetus through a 4-inch hole in her uterus then sent his hemorrhaging patient to Garden City Osteopathic Hospital, 23 miles away, in spite of the presence of properly equipped hospitals less than a mile from the clinic. Corrine required an emergency hysterectomy.

July 13, 1974: A Detroit Free Press reporter who was not pregnant went to Rucker's facility. Rucker told her that she was "no more than 12 weeks pregnant" and scheduled her for a $300 abortion without even performing a pregnancy test. "When questioned later about his diagnosis, Dr. Rucker replied, 'If I said you were 12 weeks pregnant, you were 12 weeks pregnant. My fingers never make a mistake.'"

August 13, 1974: Detroit Free Press reporters question a woman who is leaving Rucker's clinic. I'll call her "Destiny." She tells them that she had traveled from Des Plaines, Illinois, accompanied by her mother and sister, after paying a Chicago referral agency, Family Services Counseling, $75 to recommend a facility. Destiny paid $425 to the clinic. She said that her saline abortion had been performed by "Dr. Mike Morrison," actually Ralph Marra, an ex-con who had served prison time for breaking and entering, abortion, and conspiracy to commit abortion. The woman said that Marra had injected the saline vaginally, rather than through the abdomen, which increased the risk of causing infection. A second woman told reporters that Marra had performed a D&C abortion on her. Rucker insisted that "Dr. Mike" only performed pelvic exams but never abortions, and that the women were too doped up on Valium and Demerol to know who was working on them. The Detroit Free Press also noted that Marra had an outstanding warrant in Texas for practicing medicine without a license by doing abortions at a Dallas clinic in September in 1973.

October 7, 1974: The Department of Health ordered Rucker to clean up his act. They noted that women undergoing saline abortions performed by "Dr. Mike" stayed overnight at the unlicensed clinic, in violation of state law prohibiting overnight medical stays outside of hospitals. Snowden was also cited for "minor plumbing and linen storage problems, overcrowding, and the absence of written medical policies." 

October 26, 1974: Nancy, age 21, went to Rucker's clinic after two other Chicago doctors said they could not perform an abortion outside a hospital because she was nearly six months pregnant. Rucker performed the abortion and left the fetal head lodged in a tear in Nancy's uterus. Rucker sent her to Garden City Osteopathic Hospital, 23 miles away, even though there was two large, fully-equipped hospital within a mile of his clinic. Surgeons removed the fetal head and repaired the tear but for unclear reasons also did a tubal ligation.


February 5, 1975: Marra was charged with practicing medicine without a license. 


June 15, 1976: The medical board charges Rucker with having performed substandard medicine on Nancy, Corrinne, and three other women who were hospitalized after he had performed abortions on them.

June 23, 1976: Marra is acquitted of practicing medicine without a license because all the prosecution had was the statements of the women; Rucker and his staff insisted that the women were too doped up to realize who had treated them and clinic documentation did not show Marra as the "doctor."


January 26, 1977: Rucker initiates a suction abortion on 14-year-old Cecelia at Women's Counseling Center. Cecelia turned out to be seven months pregnant. Fortunately, Rucker failed to kill the unborn baby girl, who was born with a piece of her scalp missing on February 3. Women's Counseling Center fired Rucker.

June 15, 1977: Criminal charges filed relating to Cecelia.

August 17, 1977: Medical board tries to schedule a hearing but Rucker's lawyer gets a delay on the grounds that he's already facing criminal charges.

October 25, 1977: Rucker gets further delays with the medical board.

November 9, 1977: Rucker's trial for Cecelia's abortion begins; Rucker asks for charges to be dropped because he never actually performed the abortion and besides, the law no longer applied after Roe vs. Wade

November 14, 1977: Rucker's attorney gets the criminal charges dropped on the grounds that the abortion law hadn't been re-written after Roe, the state hadn't included that the baby was viable on the charges, and besides Rucker never did go through with the abortion. He asserted that he only examined Cecelia and hadn't even initiated an abortion, despite the injury to the baby's head.


March 14, 1978: Rucker's lawyer gets the charges regarding the illegal abortion dismissed again on technicalities.

April 11 - July 13, 1978: Medical board holds a series of six hearings.

July 15, 1978: A 28-year-old woman from Joliet, Illinois, went to Rucker's clinic. I'll call her "Joselyn." Though she was 15 weeks pregnant, and Michigan law at the time required that abortions past 12 weeks be done in a hospital, Rucker proceeded. Jocelyn began to bleed heavily in recovery so staff returned her to the procedure room. While she was there, both Jocelyn and her fiancé allege, a dog wandered into the room, sniffed at her, and lapped up blood off the floor. Rucker and his wife denied the allegations, though the patient her her fiancé had both signed affidavits testifying to the events.

December 12, 1978: Medical board suspends Rucker's license for a year, but the suspension isn't scheduled to go into effect until February 12, 1979. A board member told the Detroit Free Press that the board voted for 50 hours of training and a license suspension, rather than a revocation. "W didn't think there was any attempt to defraud, we think it was more of a judgmental error." Another board member said, "My original thought was, 'Let's not let go of this man's talent. He is a talented man, he is a well-intentioned man.'" 


January 25, 1979: Rucker's lawyer gets the suspension order stayed.

Late February or early March, 1979: The medical board brings a case against Rucker for Joselyn's abortion.

March 28, 1979: Rucker is ordered to take training in obstetrics in gynecology but continues the stay on the suspension of his license.

August 24, 1979: Rucker continues to practice openly at his new facility, Rucker Memorial Medical Center.


November 14, 1980: The board votes to revoke Rucker's license based on his treatment of Cecelia, Corrine, Nancy, and two other women who required hospitalization after botched late abortions.

Unspecified date: Rucker gets a stay on the revocation and continues to practice.


During this year, Rucker will get payments of nearly $350,000 in Medicaid funds. At least half of this money allegedly comes from performing expensive and unnecessary tests for patients he often never actually examines or treats.

April 15, 1981: Rucker indicted for billing Medicaid for unnecessary tests. He had billed Medicaid for a total of $280,000 in 1980. An investigator claimed to have a sprained ankle, and Rucker performed 40 tests, including an electrocardiogram, a lung function test, numerous blood tests, x-rays, and a urinalysis before even examining the agent. The Attorney General's office asserted that Rucker ordered these tests for every first-time Medicaid patient, at a cost of over $350 per patient (around $1,200 in 2022).

June 15, 1981: A judge dismissed the Medicaid fraud charges against Rucker, saying, "At most, this testimony may show a pattern of conduct which may be reprehensible but not criminal...." 

June 25, 1981: The stay against suspending Rucker's license remains in place due to squabbling of the standard of care used by the medical board.

October 28, 1981: Rucker calls a Free Press reporter who has been investigating him and says, "I'd like to do [an abortion] on you, you g**damned bitch." "Don't call me again as long as you are white and ugly and a liar. As long as you are an ugly, lying bitch, don't call me."

Early November, 1981: The reporter gets repeated threatening calls on behalf of Rucker, including one caller who said, "You better watch your ass, girl, because I'm coming after you. You don't know me, but I know you, and I'm coming after you. You might come up missing, honey. You better watch your ass, and watch it good."


January 13, 1982: The medical board reinstates a suspension of Rucker's license to go into effect February 12.

February 11, 1982: Rucker's attorney argues for a stay of the suspension based on a procedural issue.

February 12, 1982: Rucker gets another stay on the suspension; he can continue to practice.

March 15, 1982: A judge says he will allow the suspension to go into effect, but not until after Rucker is given until April 6 to request another stay.

April 6, 1982: The suspension of Rucker's license goes into effect and is to stay in effect until May 28, but Rucker is instructed not to resume practice until a revocation hearing on June 14.

June 14, 1982: A judge orders reinstatement of Rucker's license.

September 27, 1982: Rucker's Medicaid fraud trial starts. 

November 8, 1982: A judge dismisses another Medicaid fraud case against Rucker on the grounds that the state "missed their mark of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally misrepresented" the tests despite the fact that Rucker ordered them routinely for all Medicaid patients rather than as diagnostic tests specific to a patient's needs.


January 20, 1983: A judge announces that he will approve the revocation of Rucker's license to practice medicine. 

February 12, 1983: Rucker's license revocation goes into effect but is immediately stayed upon appeal. 

May 9, 1983: Michigan Court of Appeals rejects Rucker's bid to restore his license. Rucker's attorney indicates that he will take the case to the US Supreme Court if necessary to reinstate Rucker's license.


March, 1984: Rucker files for bankruptcy under his d.b.a., J. N. Rucker Memorial Medical Center P.C.

December, 1984: Rucker makes another bid to get his license restored.


I've been unable to find any mention or Rucker in newspapers or online.


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