Sunday, June 09, 2024

June 9, 1979: First of Two Deaths From Near-Simultaneous Injuries

Summary: Angela Scott was the first of two teens to die of nearly simultaneous injuries at a National Abortion Federation member clinic.

In the era of safe, legal abortion, we find a case of striking ineptitude. 

On June 2 of 1979. National Abortion Federation member Atlanta Women's Pavillion rose to new levels of incompetence when staff there managed to fatally injure two teenage abortion patients in less than an hour.

Recovery Room at Atlanta Women's Pavilion
Dr. Jacob Adams was a co-owner of the clinic, along with Dr. Otis Hammonds and Dr. Olly C. Duckett. Adams performed an abortion under general anesthesia on 19-year-old Angela Belinda Scott. He sent her to the recovery room then began performing an abortion on 15-year-old Delores Jean Smith.

Angela, an unmarried Black member of the National Guard Medical Corps, went into cardio-respiratory arrest in the recovery room due to what was reported as an "idiosyncratic reaction" to anesthesia. 

Nurse Teresa Stearns, who was not certified as an anesthetist, was administering anesthesia to Delores while Adams was performing her abortion. Stearns ran to assist in efforts to revive Angela, leaving Delores with her intravenous anesthesia drip still running while Adams continued with the abortion.

There was a 25-minute delay in getting an ambulance to the clinic because staff didn't tell the ambulance service that the call was for an emergency. 

After the staff had resuscitated Angela and loaded her into an ambulance, they returned their attention to Delores , who had gone into cardio-respiratory arrest. 

Dr. Jacob Adams
Adams had accompanied Angela to the Grady Memorial Hospital, and even though the ambulance could have transported both patients, staff refused to release Delores until the physician had returned to discharge her. This resulted in a 30-minute delay, during which the ambulance crew was unable to attend to Delores or begin transporting her.

Angela lingered for a week in a coma before dying at 2:35 a.m. on June 9. Her mother, Sarah Kellorn, sued the clinic, the three owners, and the nurse for $12.3 million, calling Atlanta's 10 or so outpatient abortion clinics "unregulated assembly-line abortion mills." At the time, abortion clinics in Georgia were not regulated beyond a requirement that they be overseen by a licensed physician.

Delores remained comatose in an intensive-care unit at Grady.

Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slaton launched an investigation. Atlanta homicide chief Lieutenant W. K. Perry said, "We've had everybody, including the CDC, calling to see what happened and why." 

State legislators held hearings about regulating abortion clinics. The medical board held formal hearings. The Food and Drug Administration examined the anesthesia drugs used on the patients.

Delores never regained consciousness. She was admitted to a nursing home in August, where she died of adult respiratory distress syndrome on October 24, 1979. Delores's mother, Nancy Smith, filed a $12.3 million suit against the clinic after learning that her daughter's pregnancy test performed at the clinic had come up negative.

Both young women were Black -- a fact that made them at higher risk of abortion death for reasons that, to my knowledge, have never been investigated.

Watch "The First of Two Deaths" on YouTube.


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