Doctor Charged with Murder in Botched Abortion
NEW YORK (AP) _ Dr. David Benjamin should have referred Guadalupe Negron to a hospital when she asked for an abortion in her fifth month of pregnancy, prosecutors say.
Instead, the physician performed the procedure and Negron, allegedly left unattended, bled to death from a ruptured uterus and cervix.
In a case unprecedented in state history and rare anywhere in the United States, Benjamin has been charged with murder, accused of doing nothing to help the woman after she was wheeled from the operating room drenched in blood from punctures to her uterus and cervix.
Opening statements were to begin today. Benjamin, 58, faces 25 years in prison if convicted in the 1993 death. He is being held on $750,000 bail.
The New York Medical Society knows of no other doctor in the state charged with murder in the death of a patient during a medical procedure. Such cases are usually taken up in malpractice suits or result in disciplinary action from regulatory boards.
Benjamin’s attorney, Brad Leventhal, said the case belongs in civil court.
``The last thing this doctor wanted to do was injure a patient or cause the death of a patient,″ Leventhal said. ``He called for emergency help, he tried everything that he possibly could do to save this patient’s life.″
But District Attorney Richard Brown said the criminal charges were warranted by Benjamin’s ``depraved indifference to human life.″
Negron, 33 and pregnant for a fifth time, was afraid she would lose her job as a nurse’s aide. She did not tell her husband, and enlisted a niece to help her.
The Honduran woman did not speak English, and like many immigrants she was afraid of anything ``official″ and did not want to go to a hospital. She found Benjamin’s clinic listed in a Spanish-language newspaper.
By the time she had gotten together the money needed for the abortion, she was five months’ pregnant. Brown said that Benjamin was required by law to refer Negron to a hospital because her pregnancy was so advanced. Instead, he performed the abortion in his office without even examining her first, Brown said.
After the procedure, Benjamin immediately began another abortion while Negron was brought to a waiting room. When the doctor saw her an hour later, she had hemorrhaged and gone into cardiac arrest, Brown said.
Benjamin called an ambulance, then mistakenly inserted a breathing tube into her stomach instead of her trachea, the prosecutor said. Negron died before reaching the hospital.
Weeks before Negron went to see Benjamin, his medical license had been revoked by the state Health Department for ``gross incompetence and negligence″ for five cases in which he had perforated the uteruses of other patients. Benjamin was appealing that ruling.
In 1989, Dr. Milos Klvana was convicted of murder in Los Angeles in the stillbirth of one infant and the deaths of eight newborns. Prosecutors said he performed the deliveries in his office even though they were high-risk cases, and refused to send the women to hospitals.
In 1993, Dr. Gerald Einaugler was convicted in New York of reckless endangerment and willful violation of health laws in the death of an elderly woman. Einaugler erroneously ordered food pumped through her dialysis tube.
He was ordered to spend weekends in jail for a year.