Legal Abortion Death: Magdalena Ortega Rodriguez, 23

On December 8, 1994, 23-year-old Magdalena went to Suresh Gandotra’s clinic, El Norte Clinica Medica, for what she thought was a safe, legal second-trimester abortion. Gandotra later said, “I knew I screwed up,” when he pulled out bowel instead of fetal parts.

Gandotra called a hospital and asked for directions to send Magdalena there by car. The staff at the hospital insisted that Magdalena should be transported by ambulance. They began to assemble an expert team for the expected catastrophic injuries.

In the mean time, Gandotra left Magdalena unattended while he did abortions on other patients. After a half-hour delay, he finally called an ambulance, but did not inform them of the hospital that was awaiting her arrival with a team ready to treat her. When the ambulance crew arrived, they found Magdalena in ventricular fibrillation, with no pulse, bleeding, and on the floor. The ambulance crew was not informed about the hospital that was awaiting this critically injured patient, so they took Magdalena to another hospital, one that was not prepared to treat a patient with her specific injuries.

Gandotra called a hospital and asked for directions to send Magdalena there by car. The staff at the hospital insisted that Magdalena should be transported by ambulance. They began to assemble an expert team for the expected catastrophic injuries.

Gandotra sent Magdalena to the hospital without a medical history or any information about her condition or what he’d done to her. The staff were totally unprepared for what they found when they examined her. Magdalena had no vitals on arrival at hospital. She was unresponsive with fixed, dilated pupils.

When the surgeon at the hospital opened Magdalena’s peritoneum, it was so distended with blood that the operating room was spattered with the escaping blood. Magdalena’s uterus was ruptured, with a fetal limb protruding into her abdomen. Her cervix, uterus, bladder, and colon were lacerated. The mangled and partially dismembered fetus was of approximately 30 weeks gestation. As the autopsy describes it, “the body of the baby was not complete when autopsied. Both arms had been cut off; the heart, lungs, liver, and other organs had been cut out, the front of the chest and abdomen were missing, the right femur was fractured, the head was intact except for an area on the scalp which had been taken off from the back of the head.”

Magdalena bled to death during surgery. Her death was attributed to “complications of the acute pelvic injuries which consisted of lacerations of the lower uterus, vagina, bladder and colon.”

Gandotra told the medical board that he had delayed calling an ambulance because he had no admitting privileges and that the patient had asked to be released so she could walk home. Gandotra’s attorney said, “We don’t believe this was blow the standard of care nor do we believe it was malpractice.” A nurse at the hospital that tried to save Magdalena’s life said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before and I don’t want to again.”

Sources: San Diego Reader 12/13/94; San Diego Union-Tribune 12/13/94, 12/17/94; Orange County Register 12/15/94; Santa Monica Outlook December 1994; Los Angeles Times 3/21/95; San Diego County South Bay Judicial District, California Superior Court Case No. S6003494; San Diego County Superior Court Case No. 661720; San Diego County Court Case No. 643695.

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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Legal Abortion Death: Edrica Goode

Edrica went to a Planned Parenthood in Riverside, California, on January 31, 2007, for a safe, legal second-trimester abortion. She was a little over 14 weeks pregnant.

A nurse there inserted laminaria to dilate Edrica’s cervix, although Edrica had “odiferous creamy-colored discharge”, indicative of a vaginal infection, at the time. Laminaria are sticks of seaweed that absorb moisture and expand, so they would wick any bacteria or viruses from the vagina into the uterus.

Edrica, who had not told her family about the abortion, did not return to the facility to have the laminaria removed and the abortion completed because her mental state had deteriorated overnight. She had became feverish, her mother said. She became mentally “confused and disoriented,” not knowing what day it was, and started acting aggressively. She also began vomiting.

Planned Parenthood’s patient profile for Edrica said that they mailed Edrica two letters telling her that she had to return and have the laminaria removed, but Edrica’s mother said that the letters never arrived. She does indicate that Planned Parenthood called, but that Edrica was too sick to take the calls.

Edrica’s family took her to Riverside County Regoinal Medical Center on February 4. A blood test there revealed the pregnancy to the physicians, but the hospital did not perform a pelvic exam because at the time Edrica was unable to consent to the examination due to confusion and inappropriate speech.

Edrica was treated in the medical ward for five days, then transferred to a psychiatric unit, which promptly sent her back to the medical unit to have them check her for possible sepsis. There, her condition continued to deteriorate. After Edrica’s boyfriend told her family about the visit to Planned Parenthood, staff at the hospital performed a pelvic examination and discovered the laminaria, along with some gauze. Edrica miscarried that day, and died the next day, Valentine’s Day.

The coroner’s report attributes Edrica’s death to toxic shock syndrome, prolonged retention of laminaria, and pregnancy. Which means that her death will likely be counted as a pregnancy death by health statisticians, but not as an abortion death because no abortion actually took place.

Edrica had been a student at Riverside Community College. Her mother said that she enjoyed traveling and reading. Her mother commented, “I can’t understand why Planned Parenthood failed to resume contact after starting the procedure. My daughter made a choice, but she didn’t choose to die. They should have come to my home.” My daughter made a choice, but she didn’t choose to die.” She added, “A lost dog gets more attention than my daughter did. This has really torn at my family.”

Edrica is the third known death among Planned Parenthood patients in California in the last four years. Holly Patterson, 18, died of an infection after an RU-486 abortion in 2003. Diana Lopez, 25, bled to death in 2002 after her cervix was punctured during the procedure. Edrica’s mother’s lawyer indicates that Planned Parenthood did not report any of these deaths to the state, as required by law.

State records indicate that the clinic in question was last inspected in July of 2003. The inspection found 12 deficiencies, most involving recordkeeping and documentation problems that were to be corrected by Sept. 20, 2003. The file doesn’t show if the corrections were made or not.

Credit: Christina Dunigan

Sources: Los Angeles Times June 21, 2007 here

Moreno Valley Local News

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Legal Abortion Death: Gwendolyn Drummer, 15

Fifteen-year-old Gwendolyn Drummer was a student at Harry Ellis High in Richmond, California, when she was admitted to Doctor’s Hospital of Pinole for a safe and legal abortion, to be performed January 28, 1972. Her doctor chose the saline abortion method.

These abortions are performed by replacing amniotic fluid with a strong salt solution. In the decades after WWII, saline was being abandoned in countires where abortion was legal, in favor of safer methods. But as laws loosened up in the US, American docors adopted the method. A British study published in 1966 found that the saline would enter the mother’s bloodstream and cause brain damage. Swedish researchers noticed an unacceptably high rate of complications and deaths. Sweden and the Soviet Union followed Japan in abandoning saline abortion as too dangerous by the late 1960s.

Gwendolyn’s doctor injected the saline into her uterus. It got into Gwendolyn’s blood stream, just as British, Japanese, Soviet, and Swedish doctors had repeatedly warned it could do. Gwendolyn suffered organ damage. She developed pneumonia, and died on January 31.

Sources: California Certificate of Death, File # 72-032193; Contra Costa County (CA) Coroner’s Report, Case # CR-72-122

Credit: Christina Dunigan

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