Saturday, May 11, 2024

May 11, 1981: Multiple Professionals Let Barbara Down

A lawsuit filed by Frank Dillon, the father of Barbara Dillon, a 22-year-old college student at SUNY New Paltz, alleged that Barbara underwent a safe and legal abortion performed by Dr. Mark Silver at Long Island Gynecological Group on April 18, 1981. 

The Pathology Findings

The tissue from Barbara's abortion was delivered to Idant Laboratory on April 21. Dr. Michael J. Klein completed a microscopic analysis. Both he and the histotechnologist, who performed the gross examination (visible without a microscope), found placental tissue but no fetal parts. The lab notified Long Island Gynecological Group on April 22. 

The pathology finding indicates that the fetus was still inside Barbara's body, either left behind in her uterus or implanted in her fallopian tube. It also didn't eliminate the possibility that Barbara had a double pregnancy -- one embedded in the uterus and the other in her fallopian tube.

Nobody from Long Island Gynecological Group contacted Barbara to inform her that she needed to be seen to determine where the fetus was, or specifically that she needed to be seen to rule out a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.

Fruitlessly Seeking Care

Barbara suffered pain and bleeding from May 5. On May 10 she finally went to the emergency room at Kingston Hospital and was treated with antibiotics by Dr. Kalyanasundaran Venkataraman and advised to see a gynecologist named Dr. Theodore Jackaway, the on-call gynecologist for the hospital, for follow-up care. 

She was in severe pain later that day and began to vomit, so her roommates called the emergency room again. They were told to give the antibiotics more time. 

At 5:30 on the morning of May 11, Barbara was in so much pain that one of her roommates called Dr. Jackaway's answering service and left a message. Jackaway called back and said that he couldn't take any responsibility for Barbara because he hadn't seen her, so he suggested that she be taken to the emergency room. 

About three hours after talking to Jackaway, Barbara's roommate contacted a neighbor who called the SUNY health center. There, Dr. Johannes D. Weltin requested that somebody take her to the health center so that he could examine her. The neighbor drove Barbara to university health center at around 9:25 a.m. Barbara was unconscious upon arrival, with no respiration, blood pressure, or pulse. 

Dr. Weltin called the hospital and spoke to Dr. Jackaway, and told him that Barbara had blood in her abdomen and needed immediate surgery. Jackaway refused to see her because she wasn't his patient and he didn't want to get involved. Dr. Weltin tried to call Dr. Kirk for a consultation, which he refused to do -- though he did call Dr. Jackaway and try to convince him to treat Barbara.

Too Late

Finally at 11:45 that morning somebody brought in Dr. Venkataraman, who performed emergency surgery. Despite this final doctor's efforts, Barbara went into irreversible shock and died on May 11. 

It turned out that Barbara had an ectopic pregnancy which the clinic had failed to detect. Barbara's father sued Dr. Silver, Dr. Jackaway, Dr. Kline, and the Long Island Gynecological Group.

Even though, in theory, women who choose abortion should be less likely to die of ectopic pregnancy complications, experiences shows that they're actually more likely to die, due to sloppy practices by abortion practitioners. In Barbara's case, it seems that everybody in the medical establishment except the pathologist and the university physician utterly let her down.

Watch "Passing the Buck Leads to Death" on YouTube.

Source: Dillon v. Silver, New York Appellate Court 134 A.D.2nd 159 (1987)

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