Catholic Online News Article

Cape Cod abortion doctor may face criminal charges

By Gail Besse
4/14/2008

The Anchor

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (The Anchor) – A former gynecologist now faces possible criminal indictment for the death of a 22-year-old woman during a legal abortion last fall in his Hyannis office.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe will seek an indictment against Rapin Osathanondh from a Barnstable County Grand Jury, the victim’s mother confirmed April 4.

Eileen Smith’s daughter Laura Hope Smith of Sandwich and Laura’s unborn child died during the September 13 surgery.

Smith has spent the past seven months pursuing the case and speaking publicly about the need for Christians to do more to end legalized abortion.

She was dismayed at the recent news that state lawmakers have again rejected the proposed Woman’s Right to Know Bill, which would give women considering an abortion time to think it over and facts about abortion’s risks and alternatives. Nearly 30 other states have such informed consent laws.

“It is such a miscarriage of justice that this bill is continually rejected,” Smith said. “I truly believe that had it been passed before last September, my daughter would still be with us today.”

A spokesman for O’Keefe’s office said the grand jury could hear testimony in this case anytime during the next three months. The jury decides whether there is probable cause to indict and send a case to superior court.

‘Unfortunate medical result’?

The first hearing in a separate wrongful death suit was held March 10 in Barnstable Superior Court. Smith is seeking unspecified punitive damages for gross negligence in the death of her daughter, according to Smith’s attorney David Angueira of Boston.

“This is not your standard medical malpractice case. This doctor did something really wrong,” Angueira said in court, according to a Cape Cod Times report. He charged that Laura’s vital signs were not monitored while she was under anesthesia.

Defense attorney Kenneth Kohlberg rebutted that the lawsuit does not have merit and his client contends that Laura’s death was “an unfortunate medical result.” Osathanondh was not in court and has repeatedly declined to comment.

Judge Robert Rufo prohibited him from selling any real estate he may own pending the wrongful death suit outcome. The judge ordered that the medical equipment that was in the abortionist’s office at 68 Camp St. in Hyannis on the day Laura and her unborn child died be preserved unaltered. He also ordered that all medical records of all patients treated that day be preserved without alteration.

Smith said her daughter apparently died on the abortion table; Hyannis firefighters found Laura non-responsive when they answered the emergency call.

Pro-life belief not enough

Last fall, Smith filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, and Osathanondh resigned his medical license in February. He had formerly been on the staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, but left there in 2001 following complaints that during a staff meeting he had threatened to “execute” five nurses, according to a Boston Herald report. The Thai-educated gynecologist was not prosecuted.

Vowing that her daughter’s death would “not be swept under the rug,” Smith has spoken tirelessly on the pro-life circuit after Operation Rescue in Kansas first contacted her. She was in Springfield for the January March for Life and in February she spoke with David Bereit, director of the national “40 Days for Life” campaign.

In that interview, Smith, who is Protestant, said that Laura’s death made her realize that it was not enough to just believe in pro-life principles without doing more to oppose abortion.

“I believed if I lived my Christian life, preached the gospel, raised my children with Christian principles, that not only would abortion not touch my home, but we could make converts to Christianity and thereby lower the numbers. I was wrong on all counts,” she said.

She now realizes that God “is the head of the pro-life movement and He will guide and direct and empower us if we but hear His voice and follow His heart.” All Christian leaders need to “make life a major priority in their mission and pulpits,” she said.

‘Informed consent’ laws needed

Smith has appeared on numerous cable television pro-life shows, and recently spoke with a Massachusetts chapter of Concerned Women for America .She will be a featured speaker at the Massachusetts Citizens for Life Convention this month.

She’ll also fly to Dallas to celebrate the anniversary of the end of Partial Birth Abortion with a march on the courthouse where the Roe v. Wade decision was passed in 1973, making abortion legal in the U.S. during all nine months of pregnancy. In May, Smith will fly to California for radio shows and church appearances.

On March 19, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary effectively killed the Woman’s Right to Know Bill by sending it to study committee. The bill would ensure that every woman considering an abortion be given full information and time to reflect on its risks and alternatives.

“The undeniable evidence is mounting that informed consent bills only help women,” Smith said. “No other medical procedure besides abortion is so legally shrouded under such a veil of secrecy. Once again our legislators have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the plight of the unborn and the suffering of women.”

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