New Illinois Administrative Complaint Demands Investigation and Discipline Against Planned Parenthood Physicians for Botched Abortion and Death of Patient, Tonya Reaves

Tonya ReavesChicago—Yesterday, the Pro-Life Action League (“the League”), acting through its legal counsel, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, filed a formal administrative complaint with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (“IDPR”), urging in the public interest that the IDPR undertake an immediate investigation as to whether substandard medical care led to the death last summer of Tonya Reaves, shortly after she had a late term abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility in Chicago.

In five single-spaced pages with ten attached exhibits (Exhs. A-J), the complaint raises a series of questions—arising from news reports, Web postings, 911 records, the autopsy report of the Cook County Coroner, and other sources—as to whether Ms. Reaves, a 24-year-old single mother, who died on July 20, 2012, after she underwent a surgical abortion at Planned Parenthood’s “Loop Health Center” facility at 18 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60603, received unprofessional care from Illinois licensed physicians.

Thus the League and the Thomas More Society have detailed a series of serious concerns about apparent inadequate and substandard care given to Ms. Reaves—concerns that are immediately prompted by critical facts of the case that have become public up to this date. First, Planned Parenthood’s website for the 18 S. Michigan facility, where Ms. Reaves had her abortion, recited (in a passage that was later deleted) that only limited services—birth control, emergency contraception, and medication abortion (i.e., the abortion pill)—were available at that facility.

Yet Ms. Reaves, then 16 weeks pregnant according to her autopsy report, underwent an invasive, surgical dilatation & evacuation (D&E) abortion. Thus these facts suggest that this facility was inadequately equipped and/or staffed to handle either the D&E procedure or complications arising as a result—complications that later led to the patient’s demise. Any physician taking responsibility for performing surgery in such a sub-par setting, who inflicts the ultimate “harm” (death) on his or her patient, is not even remotely “properly qualified or competent” to render such potentially fatal surgical services, which is “dishonorable, unethical or unprofessional conduct” or “questioned activities” that flout regulatory norms.

Moreover, while Ms. Reaves’ abortion was performed at about 11:00 a.m. on July 20th, her autopsy shows that she was not transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which was fully equipped to handle post-surgical emergencies, until 5½ hours later. Capable, experienced medical staff should have noted that the patient was not recovering properly and needed emergency medical care.

Even after Ms. Reaves’ ultimately fatal complications must have been plainly apparent, staff failed to call 911. The autopsy also indicates that she received large quantities of saline solution, but no effective medical help. No city ambulance was summoned, so Ms. Reaves may well have been taken to the hospital in a non-emergency vehicle, unequipped for transport of life-threatening cases. These facts alone cry out a chilling message that Ms. Reaves was victimized by woefully inadequate emergency care, far from what proper medical standards required in such a grave, exigent situation.

Finally, the autopsy shows that when the patient finally arrived at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH), she was given an ultrasound and re-suctioned. But the autopsy does not indicate that NMH doctors considered whether she had suffered a uterine perforation—what the Planned Parenthood physician must have suspected, given profuse bleeding and statistical likelihood of such an event occurring during an abortion procedure.

Indeed, it was only after the hospital doctors conducted another abortion (perhaps her third of that fateful day) that staff noted the build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. But by 10:15 p.m., it was already too late to save Ms. Reaves’ life. All these facts suggest a gross failure of the Planned Parenthood physician to communicate to hospital staff all of the relevant and urgent facts about this gravely endangered patient immediately upon her transfer to the hospital, amounting to a flagrant case of utterly unprofessional “patient abandonment.”

While normally, such violations of professional medical standards would be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health, all Illinois Planned Parenthood clinics are unlicensed. As a result, any investigation relating to sub-standard medical care on their part is entrusted to IDPR.

“We request, respectfully but urgently, that the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation investigate and scrutinize all relevant facts surrounding the death of Tonya Reaves,” said Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. He added: “It is IDPR’s solemn duty to protect patients from dangerous medical treatments, and Illinois citizens sorely need dependable assurance that Tonya Reaves’ tragedy will never be allowed to recur.”

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