Copyright © 1997 AFLM
May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - IN THE NATION
Woman dies after abortion; Abortionist Steir under investigation -- agian
Moreno Valley, CA -- Abortionist Bruce S. Steir has killed another woman.
The December 13 death of an abortion customer at A Lady's Choice Women's Medical Center in Moreno Valley has triggered yet another investigation of Steir's competency.
Sharon Hampton, a 27-year-old Barstow woman died there during a second-trimester abortion at the Moreno Valley clinic, performed by the abortionist, who is being investigated by the state medical board.
Hampton, a mother of a three-year-old son, who was 20 weeks pregnant, died of internal bleeding caused by a perforated uterus. She died after arriving back home in Barstow. The perforation was verified in an autopsy.
"They ruptured (the uterus) some way or other during the abortion, causing hemorrhage," said Jim Sedgwick, a deputy coroner with the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office.
Steir, 65, of San Francisco, was fired December 18 from his job with A Lady's Choice Women's Medical Center, said Christine Little, an escort at the clinic and a spokeswoman in this matter.
Steir said he did not realize that he had ruptured Hampton's uterus when he sent her home with her mother on that Friday afternoon.
"I made the perforation unknowingly," Steir said. "It must have been just a small area and bled slowly. Had I diagnosed her as a perforation, I would not have sent her home. I would have sent her to the hospital and she would be alive today. Whether there was negligence involved or not, I do not know. I don't feel there was. But I am very devastated by the woman's death."
Abortionist Joseph Durante, did not wish to answer any questions on the death. Durante owns the clinic in Moreno Valley as well as one in Victorville. He also has a gynecological practice in Palm Desert.
Since opening, the Moreno Valley clinic has attracted anti-abortion protesters on a weekly basis. Recently, clinic employees have been trying to get the Moreno Valley City Council to ban the protesters from holding up large pictures showing severed baby heads.
Prior to Hampton's death, Steir was already under investigation for alleged negligence in other abortion operations.
But the notoriety of this death has caused Steir's prior record -- his checkered past -- to resurface. As a result, many are wondering why it has taken so long for the authorities to become consider revoking Steir's license.
The state Attorney General's Office and Medical Board Executive Director Ronald Joseph filed a complaint Nov. 30, 1995, asking state medical authorities to declare Steir grossly negligent in a series of abortions.
The complaint accuses Steir of using improper techniques and surgical instruments that increased the risk of perforating the uterus and other abdominal damage. It also states that Steir failed to provide follow-up examinations for patients who underwent difficult or complicated abortions.
Among the cases cited in the complaint, authorities allege:
* A 33-year-old woman nearly bled to death after suffering a lacerated uterus and ruptured colon during a 21-week abortion performed by Steir in December 1992 at an Oakland clinic. Surgeons at nearby Highland Hospital saved the woman's life after more than eight hours of surgery, including a hysterectomy.
* A 21-year-old woman with a 22-week pregnancy underwent an abortion by Steir at the same Oakland clinic in March 1993. The woman initially complained of a stabbing pain after the procedure but after the symptom disappeared, she was allowed to return home. Four hours later, she appeared at the emergency room of Los Medanos Hospital in Contra Costa County where doctors repaired a ruptured uterus and lacerated bowel.
* A 34-year-old patient underwent an abortion to abort a 15- to 17-week child at the same Oakland clinic in March 1992. Steir, who performed the abortion, was unable to determine that he had removed the entire fetus. He discharged the patient without informing her of this fact or arranging appropriate follow-up care. Two days later, the patient was admitted to Physician's Community Hospital with a fever, severe abdominal pain and nausea. Physicians discovered a perforated uterus and performed a hysterectomy. Doctors also removed a fetal skull found protruding through a rent in the uterus.
Steir (California Physician and Surgeon's Certificate No. C-24466) has been practicing medicine in California since September 20, 1962. He graduated from the Miami School of Medicine in 1957. He practiced medicine in the Air Force for six years, as a private physician in Washington State for 12 years and 6 years in the Navy. He ended his naval career at Fort Pendleton in 1985. During his time in the Navy, he was a moonlighting abortionist. He formed a professional relationship with the Feminist Women's Health Centers of Northern California in the early 1980s and continues as their Medical Director at four clinics (Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Redding and Chico). He is also an itinerant abortionist for other Northern California clinics.
Steir's patchy history begins on July 15, 1985, when his "privileges for providing clinical treatment and services in any capacity within all medical treatment facilities under the command of the Commanding Officer of the Department of the Navy, Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton, were revoked."
Steir had left a portion of the placenta in a women to whom he gave a C-section and she had suffered excess bleeding. Steir's naval superiors list the cause of his suspension as "negligence, incompetence, or misconduct related to the standards of care in obstetrics and gynecology."
In 1988, Steir began a stipulated 5-year probation by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance (BMQA) because of unprofessional conduct in the naval incident and his subsequent 1985 disciplinary action by the U.S. Navy. The stipulations included Steir being barred from practicing medicine in a hospital setting.
Yet, on several applications that same year for hospital staff privileges, Steir lied in answering questions such as, "Has your license to practice medicine in any jurisdiction ever been limited, suspended or revoked -- or is such action pending?" truth -- despite his loss of privileges for unprofessional
On July 23, 1988, two days after perjuring himself a second time and unlawfully joining a hospital staff, Steir administered a second term abortion to a 31-year-old woman, at the Pregnancy Consultation Center in San Francisco. At approximately midnight, she entered St. Francis Memorial Hospital with low blood pressure, a reduced pulse rate and a tender, distended abdomen. X-ray's revealed air under the right diaphragm. She was diagnosed with a perforated uterus, peritonitis and anemia. Consequently, the California BMQA again brought suit against Dr. Steir to revoke his license. BMQA went to lengths to characterize Steir's conduct as "gross negligence....incompetence....unpro-fessional conduct."
After many delays, BMQA negotiated an additional three-year stipulated probation.
The rest of Steir's record is a litany of uterine perforations and incompetence from Washington State to Florida.
"Can you say, 'Safe and legal'?" asked one of the local pro-life activists.