Legal Abortion Death: Marla Cardamone, 18

Suit by survivors of Marla Anne Cardamone, age 18, mother of 1, alleged that Marla became pregnant while on Tegretol and Elavil for depression.

Marla’s mother, Deborah Cardamone, commented:

“Originally, she had planned to put her baby up for adoption, since she already had a toddler to take care of, but a medical-social worker at the hospital strongly urged Marla to have a safe and legal abortion.

The social worker argued that Marla had damaged her baby because of medication she had taken. Statistics gave a 92% chance that the baby was fine, but Marla had a sonogram to be sure. After the sonogram, that social worker kept pressuring Marla to have an abortion. Finally, Marla gave in.”

Marla was admitted to Magee Women’s Hospital for the abortion August 15, 1989.

Although the urea induction technique was contraindicated due to Marla’s medical history, Michael W. Weinberger injected urea into Marla’s uterus.

Either an error during this injection or some other mishap caused generalized necrosis of Marla’s uterine wall. The laminaria were also inserted by Weinberger in a manner resulting in septicemia, and massive cortical necrosis of the kidneys.

Marla became ill during the night, with nausea, vomiting, urinary incontinence, and dried blood on her teeth. Her pulse and temperature were severely elevated.

At 6:30 AM the charge nurse contacted a the first of several doctors to treat Marla, but no were cultures taken.

By 7 AM Marla was “increasingly disoriented and speaking inappropriately.”

By 7:15, her blood pressure had fallen to 80/40, her pulse had shot up to 144, and she was “unresponsive, grunting loudly, and having seizures.”

At 10 AM, intravenous antibiotics were administered. Marla was dead from septicemia at 12:15 PM.

Her mother describes seeing her daughter for the last time:

“Finally, they allowed me to see Marla’s body. When I entered the room, I could hardly believe what I saw. There was my beautiful daughter so horribly disfigured that she was almost unrecognizable. A tube was still protruding from her mouth and I could see that her teeth and gums were covered with blood. Her eyes were half opened and the whites of her eyes were a dark yellow. Her face was swollen and discolored a deep purple. The left side of her face looked like she had suffered a stroke. All I wanted was to hold her. I managed to get an arm around her and kissed her good-bye.”

The suit filed by Marla’s family noted failure to notify them of her deteriorating condition. Marla’s mother and quadriplegic father, who Marla had helped to care for, adopted Marla’s child.

The suit faulted the doctor and hospital with performance of a psychiatrically contraindicated abortion, failure to evacuate the dead fetus, administering an overdose of Pitocin, and failure to consult qualified doctors.

Marla’s mother adds bitterly:

“I had to file a lawsuit to get any answers. Marla had died of septicemia–a massive infection from the abortion. I also learned that the social worker had never seen Marla’s sonogram or discussed the results with her. Marla never saw the words on the sonogram report that would have changed everything: No abnormalities detected. My daughter was pressured to have an abortion, and there had been no reason for it, no reason at all.

I’ve often wondered why pro-choice women’s groups have never expressed any sympathy or concern over Marla’s death. Why aren’t they demanding justice? Why aren’t they concerned that Marla was lied to about the condition of her baby and wasn’t shown the sonogram results? Why aren’t they concerned that proper treatment was delayed because Marla was misdiagnosed by a resident who was only two months out of medical school? Why are they so quiet?

I believe it’s because pro-choice groups don’t want women to read or hear about abortion injuries and deaths. Bad publicity hurts their cause. That’s why they prefer that Marla and her baby remain hidden statistics.”

Regarding the cause of Marla Cardamone’s death, the following quotations were reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on January 14, 1997:

“The parents of an 18-year-old Mt. Lebanon woman who died while having an abortion in 1989 have settled their lawsuit against Magee Womens Hospital and six doctors. The agreement concluded more than five years of litigation…Terms of the agreement were not revealed.”

The paper also reported, “Expert witnesses were to be called during the trial to testify that inexperienced physicians made numerous errors in the abortion procedure, then failed to promptly recognize the symptoms of the infection and arrest it.”

Sources: Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Case No. G.D. 91-14565; American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology Vol. 14, No. 2, 1993; Marla’s Tragic Death

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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