Thursday, October 19, 2023

October 19, 1954: A Naturopath in Texas

Sylvia Redman
Dr. Sylvia Redman (pictured), a 57-year-old woman who had a license to practice naturopathy in Texas, signed a written confession on October 20, 1954 regarding the death of 27-year-old homemaker Betty Jean Ledel the previous day. 

Redman' confession said that Betty came to her Fort Worth practice, Nature Foods & Clinic at 2836 Hemphill on October 8, saying that she thought she was pregnant. Betty asked her "if I could help her get rid of the baby. I told her the danger of everything and she said she was not afraid. I told her I would rather her to go somewhere else and have the baby stopped in twenty four hours, because my work is slow. I do it by shooting a little air up into the womb. (uterus) By going through the cervix into the uterus, where the embryo is carried. She told me she wanted me to do it." Redman complied, repeating the process daily. 

On October 19, Betty again went to Redman. Her husband and one of their two young children waited outside in the car. Redman took Betty upstairs, "laid her on a table used for females," and inserted a canula into Betty's uterus. She pushed five syringes full of air into Betty's uterus and asked Betty if she could feel it. Betty said that she could, a little. "And she looked up at me and said I feel choky, and then she passed out." Redman also noticed that Betty was bleeding vaginally.

Redman said, "I used artificial respiration. I picked her up in my arms and laid her on the floor. And I slung water at her to try to revive her, and then I had a lady downstairs to call an ambulance. The ambulance came and got her and took her to Harris Hospital where Betty was pronounced dead on arrival, leaving 7-year-old David and 2-year-old Cathy without a mother.

Redman threw away the instruments but police quickly found them and got a confession. An autopsy verified that Betty had indeed been pregnant, and blamed her death on the introduction of air into her uterus to produce abortion. The six or seven week old embryo was intact and undamaged. Betty's blood vessels had air in them, and one of her lungs had collapsed. The examiner concluded that she had died from an air embolism.

Redman seemed to have a mixed reputation in the area. She was charged with practicing medicine without a license in October of 1945, but by 1947 was in good standing, with the newspaper reporting that she had returned after a study of endo-nasal and aural therapy at Philadelphia College of Neuropathy and Naturopathy. 

Redman's jury deliberated slightly under two and a half hours before finding her guilty of murder by abortion. She was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for four years, a far cry from the death penalty she could potentially have faced. Her appeal was denied and she was paroled in May of 1957.


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