MANSLAUGHTER TRIAL OF ARIZONA ABORTION DOCTOR

Emotions run high over abortion death
Reluctant witness testifies

Carol Sowers and Senta Scarborough
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 01, 2001 12:00:00

Protesters carried rosary beads and prayed outside a Phoenix courtroom Wednesday as an abortion doctor was forced to testify even though he feared for his safety.

Dr. Moshe Hachamovitch of New York, who said he has performed "hundreds of thousands" of late-term abortions, repeatedly told jurors he does not recall details about a patient's death in 1998 at his Phoenix clinic, the A-Z Women's Center in Phoenix.

Hachamovitch had fought a subpoena from Maricopa County prosecutors to testify in the manslaughter trial of his employees, Dr. John Biskind, 75, and Carol Stuart-Schadoff, 63, in the death of LouAnne Herron. Hachamovitch had received threats that caused him to fear for his safety, said J.W. Brown, a Maricopa County Superior Court spokeswoman.

The 25 protesters who marched in front of the Superior Court building in downtown Phoenix prayed for Biskind and for women who use abortion clinics. They also carried signs saying, "Convict Biskind. A baby killed. A mother left to die," and, "Stop abortion now."

New York courts allowed Hachamovitch to testify only after court officials here guaranteed that photographers would not take pictures of him. In a rare move, courthouse security required spectators, family members and reporters attending the trial to pass through a metal detector to get inside the courtroom of Superior Judge Michael O. Wilkinson.

         

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Clinics still unlicensed, despite law

Carol Sowers
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 01, 2001

Women in Arizona still receive abortions in unlicensed clinics, despite pledges made after a highly publicized death three years ago.

State lawmakers reacted to the 1998 death of abortion patient LouAnne Herron by passing a law that for the first time would have required state licensing of doctors offices where abortions are performed.

But the regulations have become a political and legal train wreck.

First, a New York reproductive rights group filed suit, derailing the law's implementation. The group argued that licensure is a poorly cloaked effort to put abortion doctors out of business in Arizona and that it is unnecessary because doctors who perform abortions follow accepted standards of care.

Even proponents of the law were troubled, saying they were wooed with false promises that all doctors performing outpatient surgery, such as vasectomies or liposuction, would be licensed by the state.

"It may be that some of those people who made those promises were lying, and this, for them, was about limiting abortion access," said Bryan Howard, president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, which helped craft the legislation.

The law, hammered out in the waning days of the 1998-99 legislative session, was prompted by Herron's death on April 17, 1998. The 33-year-old mother of two bled to death in the A-Z Women's Center in Phoenix after a doctor punctured her uterus during a late-term abortion.

Maricopa County prosecutors charged Dr. John Biskind, 75, and Carol Stuart-Schadoff, 63, his administrator, with manslaughter, alleging that they ignored Herron's worsening condition and allowed her to bleed to death. Their lawyers say that the allegations are false and that the two followed standard medical practices.

The long-anticipated trial has packed Superior Court Judge Michael O. Wilkinson's courtroom and stirred emotional testimony about Herron's last three hours of life on a gurney at the Women's Center. But the legal drama over licensure has unfolded quietly in the background.

Under the regulations, clinics owned by doctors or a group of doctors that perform five or more first-trimester abortions per month or any late-term abortions would be licensed by the state. Doctors also would have to state in writing the reasons for abortions and techniques used.

Clinics would be required to send ultrasound images of fetuses to a state laboratory to certify fetal age. In Arizona, a physician can decide when a fetus is able to live outside the womb, but the standard is generally 24 weeks.

Last March 1, less than two years after Herron died, the Center for Reproductive Law & Public Policy of New York, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Tucson against the state Department of Health Services.

"LouAnne Herron's death is a complete tragedy," said Bonnie Scott Jones, a center lawyer. "I found it completely heartbreaking because he let her bleed to death. But putting rules on the clinic wouldn't have changed anything. The principle of standard of care already is in place. He (Biskind) ignored those standards. No amount of regulation is going to make a bad doctor stop being a bad doctor."

Kevin Ray, an assistant state attorney general, said the rules are "reasonable and conform to national guidelines."

One in particular would have helped in the Biskind case, he said. It requires a physician to be immediately available until all patients' conditions are stable. If the physician can't be there, a physician's assistant or a licensed nurse must be at the clinic until a doctor signs discharge orders.

Prosecutors say Biskind left the clinic even though he knew no registered nurse was on duty and that Herron was in trouble.

Federal Judge Raner Collins in late March temporarily blocked the state's new licensing rules. He is expected in the next few months to either uphold or ban the licensure or set a trial date.

Like Howard, Jones argues that the licensure of abortion doctors ignores other unlicensed doctors offices that do outpatient surgery. She says if lawmakers had forced licensure on other doctors, "the outrage from doctors would have been incredible."

Patti Caldwell, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, said she worries that doctors who also do other procedures "could stop providing abortions."

While the lawsuit over the licensure meanders through the courts, women continue to seek abortions in 10 facilities that do not have state licenses. Ten other clinics are licensed by the state because they are owned by non-doctors. Planned Parenthood clinics fall under those licensing rules.

Planned Parenthood's Howard is disappointed that lawmakers didn't force DHS licensure on other outpatient procedures. The department licenses other medical facilities, including hospitals, outpatient treatment centers, dialysis units and home health agencies.

Howard said his agency provided its medical procedures as a blueprint for the regulations because he was promised that other outpatient clinics would be licensed.

"The Legislature has never followed through on that piece, and you still have foot and cosmetic surgery done in an entirely unlicensed facility," he said, adding, "People ought to be concerned about that."

But Sen. Sue Gerard, a Phoenix Republican, and chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee, said that promise was made by Jeff Groscost, former speaker of the House, who resigned last year in the wake of the alternative-fuels fiasco.

"There is no question they are right," Gerard said of Planned Parenthood. "But they need to tell me how they can get a handle on regulating the dozens of medical procedures. Where do they draw the line on what is major surgery? It would be a monstrous regulatory process."

http://www.arizonarepublic.com/news/articles/0201abortion01.html

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Doctor guilty in abortion death
Wednesday, 21-Feb-01 16:03:02

    24.14.28.77 writes:

    Doctor guilty in abortion death
    http://www.azcentral.com/news/0221biskind21.html

    Jurors convict Biskind,
    assistant

    Carol Sowers
    The Arizona Republic
    Feb. 21, 2001

    In what is believed to be the          
    first time a doctor has ever
    been found guilty of killing a
    patient in Arizona, a jury on
    Tuesday convicted Dr. John
    Biskind of manslaughter and
    his assistant of negligent
    homicide.

    Jurors concluded that Biskind's patient, LouAnne Herron, would still be
    alive if not for her botched abortion in 1998 at the A-Z Women's Center in
    Phoenix.

    The verdict came shortly before noon in Maricopa County Superior Court
    after jurors had listened to a month of sometimes disturbing, sometimes
    tedious testimony. During a press conference two hours later, Maricopa
    County Attorney Richard Romley described the case as the first time in
    Arizona that a doctor has been convicted in the death of a patient.

    Jurors concluded that Biskind, 75, demonstrated a "reckless disregard"
    for Herron's life, and that the clinic administrator, Carol Stuart-Schadoff,
    63, also could have prevented her death, said Russell Craig of Phoenix,
    jury foreman.

    Jurors made up their minds                      
    to convict Biskind and
    Stuart-Schadoff immediately
    upon beginning deliberations
    Thursday, he said. But they
    spent three hours Thursday
    and an hour Tuesday
    deliberating the precise
    nature of the crimes.

    "The evidence kind of spoke
    for itself," Craig, 56,
    observed.

    Superior Court Judge Michael
    Wilkinson set sentencing for
    March 20. The defendants
    remain free on $32,000 bail.
    Biskind could receive a
    sentence ranging from
    probation to 12* years in
    prison. Stuart-Schadoff could
    get probation or a prison term
    of up to 3* years.

    Evidence showed that Herron, 33, bled to death after Biskind punctured
    her uterus during the late-term abortion in April 1998 at the A-Z
    Women's Center. At one point, Biskind testified that he left the clinic to
    go to his tailor as Herron lay bleeding. He also testified, however, that he
    could not have prevented Herron's death and that he did not realize the
    serious nature of her condition.

    Craig said the seven-woman, one-man jury was offended by Biskind's
    smiling arrogance on the stand and his testimony that he left the clinic
    while Herron was bleeding. And jurors were concerned about
    Stuart-Schadoff's failure to act on Herron's behalf.

    "If she had, LouAnne Herron
    would be alive today," Craig      
    said.                                                                           

    As the verdict was read,
    members of Herron's family
    gasped and cried softly. Jay
    Schadoff, Stuart-Schadoff's
    husband, would not
    comment, but whispered the
    word "travesty" after the jury
    left the courtroom. Neither of
    the defendants commented
    on the outcome of the case.

    Michael Gibbs, Herron's
    father, called the verdict "just
    step one" in the family's
    search for justice. With tears
    welling up in his eyes, he
    said family members did not
    want to talk about the
    criminal case because they
    worried it would endanger
    their civil suit against
    Biskind, Stuart-Schadoff and Dr. Moshe Hachamovitch, owner of the A-Z
    Women's Center. The suit is expected to go to trial in June.

    Prosecutors Paul Ahler and Susan Brnovich told jurors Biskind should
    be convicted of manslaughter because he acted recklessly, leaving the
    clinic although he knew she had spent too many hours in the recovery
    room and declining to return even after being told she had trouble
    breathing and had no pulse.

    The prosecutors said Stuart-Schadoff arranged the abortion and failed to
    schedule a registered nurse in the recovery room the day Herron died. 

    Ahler, who hugged each of
    Herron's family members as
    the jury filed out of the                              
    courtroom, said he was
    surprised at the speed of the
    jury's decision.

    "I thought it would be a bit
    longer," he said, "but I am
    gratified by the way it came
    out."

    Attorneys for Biskind and
    Stuart-Schadoff said they
    will appeal.

    Herron, the mother of two
    boys, had been separated
    from her husband of 15
    years when she went to the
    clinic because it was the only
    one in the Valley advertising
    that it would do abortions up
    to 24 weeks. She knew it
    was a late-stage abortion
    and was desperate to have it
    done because she and her
    husband had separated and
    she was a single working
    mother who already had two
    children.

    Even before Herron came to
    the clinic, Biskind had a long
    history of problems with
    abortions, including the
    death of another patient in
    1995. The previous
    troubles, however, were not
    admitted as evidence.

    Within hours after the verdict, County Attorney Romley called for
    tougher laws forcing doctors to do a better job of regulating
    themselves. He vowed to go to the state Legislature next year to
    demand stiffer rules if the state Board of Medical Examiners "doesn't
    make some changes" first.

    Romley said he will ask for a pre-sentence hearing where he will
    present evidence of Biskind's other mishandled abortions, including
    the death of the other woman and his delivery of a full-term baby that
    he intended to abort.

    Told of the previous cases, Craig, the jury foreman, said it "makes me
    feel better about my decision."

    Biskind will join a handful of doctors across the country who face
    prison time because of their medical care.

    Their legal fates may provide a clue into what Biskind may face. In
    California last year, a doctor pleaded guilty to involuntary
    manslaughter and was sentenced to one year in jail and 1,000 hours
    of community service.

    In 1995, a New York doctor was found guilty of murder and
    sentenced 25 years to life. The case is similar to Biskind's. A woman
    went to Dr. David Benjamin for a late-term abortion. He lacerated
    her uterus and did not return when his staff called saying that she was
    in danger.

    Lawrence Kazan, Biskind's attorney, would say only that he was
    disappointed with the verdict. Cameron Morgan, Stuart-Schadoff's
    attorney, said the defense plans to appeal.

    He said the appeal will be based in part on the introduction of an
    ultrasound of Herron's fetus even though it was described as useless
    by one of the prosecutor's key witnesses. The prosecutor's case was
    based heavily on the theory that Biskind chose the ultrasound that
    showed the fetus to be 23 weeks old, but rejected other ultrasounds
    that suggested the fetus was 26 weeks, putting it close to gestational
    age when it could have survived outside the womb.

    Kazan also said his client was not kept informed by medical assistants
    of Herron's condition and left the clinic that day believing she was
    ready to be discharged.

    Dr. Brian Finkel, a longtime abortion doctor, on Tuesday called
    Biskind an incompetent doctor who deserves to pay for his
    mishandling of Herron's abortion. But he said the verdict will fuel the
    fire of abortion opponents who want to prevent women from "getting
    the services they have a right to."

    John Jakubczyk, a prominent attorney who opposes abortion, said he
    was pleased with the victory and believes Biskind should be sent to
    prison.

    "Biskind seems oblivious that a woman is dead because of him," he
    said. "I don't think he knows the value of life and maybe he needs to
    spend the next 10 years in prison thinking about it."

    Reporters Senta Scarborough and Jodie Snyder contributed to
    this report.

    ======================================================

    More Allegations Vs.  Abortion Doctor
    http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-abortion-doctor-abuse0129jan29.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dnationworld%2Dheadlines

    By EDUARDO MONTES

    Associated Press Writer

    January 29, 2002, 6:39 PM EST PHOENIX -- An abortion doctor accused last
    year of sexually abusing nine patients has been indicted on charges of
    molesting 26 others.

    Dr.  Brian Finkel, 51, was arrested Tuesday and held on $650,000 bail.

    He was first arrested in October.  Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley
    said more than 100 women have since called his office alleging abuse, which
    led to the latest indictment issued Friday.

    "A lot of the women said, 'I just didn't want to think about it,'" Romley
    said.  "They just repressed it."

    The new charges accuse Finkel of inappropriate touching during examinations
    and abortions at his Metro Phoenix Women's Clinic between 1983 and  2001.

    Finkel said earlier this month that he was innocent and was looking forward
    to trial.

    His attorney, Richard Gierloff, said his client did nothing wrong.  The
    lawyer said some of the women who complained don't understand that what
    Finkel did during the procedures were medically necessary.

    "A doctor cannot perform this type of exam without the conduct that they
    (prosecutors) say is criminal," Gierloff said.

    Gierloff said Finkel hasn't been practicing since October.

     

 

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