Md. Abortion Clinic Administrator Refutes Details of Patient Death

March 14, 2013 — The administrator of a Baltimore abortion clinic that had its license to provide surgical abortions suspended last week is refuting allegations that a patient suffered cardiac arrest at the facility, the Baltimore Sun reports (Walker, Baltimore Sun, 3/12).

Maryland health officials suspended the licenses of three clinics run by Associates in Ob/Gyn Care, including the Baltimore clinic, for not complying with state regulations. The clinics continue to offer medication abortions and general ob-gyn services.

Officials said a patient at the Baltimore clinic experienced cardiac arrest and died. They also observed issues at the two other locations that they said could affect patient care (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/12).

Clinic's Response

Melissa Shachnovitz, administrator of the Baltimore clinic, in a letter to Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein wrote that the patient received an abortion with no complications. Afterward, the woman began having trouble breathing. A physician gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before sending her to a hospital, where she was treated for several days before dying, according to Shachnovitz.

She added that the patient had an underlying heart condition called cardiomyopathy, a deterioration of the heart muscle that leads to heart failure. The woman was an immigrant from a remote area of a developing country and likely was unaware of her heart condition.

"The mere fact that it occurred while she was sitting in our facility recovering after an abortion procedure may possibly have been simply a coincidence," the letter said. "We feel that it is necessary to defend our reputation against false impressions," Shachnovitz wrote.

She said the information in the letter is based on reports from a physician and registered nurse at the clinic, as well as physicians at the hospital. "Some of this information is second-hand and cannot be verified by us; however, this is the most accurate information that we have about this patient to date," Shachnovitz wrote.

Clinic spokesperson Bridget Wilson said, "Our physician's fast response and proper care temporarily saved the patient's life, and resulted in her safe transport to the hospital" (Baltimore Sun, 3/12).