Susanne Logan's Story

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Excerpt from CBS News 60 Minutes Volume XXIII, #32, April 21, 1991

VIEIRA: No matter where people stand on the abortion issue, pro-choice or pro-life, nobody wants back-alley abortions, certainly not Susanne Logan, who found what she believed to be a reputable clinic where she could get a legal, safe abortion. Meet Susanne Logan.

[interviewing] Do you remember going to the clinic specifically to get an abortion? [Ms. Logan nods] But you don't -- I'm sorry. You don't remember what happened inside the clinic? [Ms. Logan shakes her head]

VIElRA: [voice-overl Today, Susanne Logan lives in a Baltimore nursing home. She is almost completely paralyzed, her brain so damaged she will never speak again. She's now 33 and will spend the rest of her life never understanding what happened to her. Two years ago, Susanne was a waitress struggling to make ends meet when she found herself pregnant. She went to the Hillview abortion clinic in Suitland, Maryland, for what she thought would be a safe, simple, $400 abortion. Susanne was given general anesthesia. Minutes later, according to her attorney, Patrick Malone [sp?], she stopped breathing.

PATRICK MALONE, Susanne Logsn's Attorney: Apparently, about half-way through the procedure the nurse looked at the patient's face and noticed that the lips were turning blue, Susanne's lips. Then all hell broke loose.

911 OPERATOR: [on the phone] Fire and Rescue.

WOMAN: Yes, this is Hillview Women's Medical Surgical Center at 5408 Silver Hill Load. We have a patient in the exam room who has -- you know, we can't get any pulse or respiration.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] County paramedics who responded to the 911 call reported the clinic in chaos. Hillview workers lacked the right medicine to reverse the effect of the anesthesia. Their emergency equipment was broken, causing Susanne's brain to go without oxygen for 12 minutes.

Mr. MALONE: The anesthesia was given without any monitoring whatsoever, without an anesthesiologist present, without a nurse-anesthetist present, without the normal safeguards that are part of standard, modern American medical care. I've seen a lot of cases and met a lot or doctors and reviewed a lot of records and I've never seen anything like this.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Hillview's owner is Barbara Lofton [sp?]. For years, Lofton posed as a psychologist and ran mental health clinics until the District of Columbia shut her down for submitting phony Medicaid bills and letting unqualified employees dispense medicine. Undeterred, Lofton went into the abortion business, but D.C. investigators again shut her down, this time for operating without a license. A few months later, she moved the clinic two miles across the state line to Maryland where there are no laws regulating abortion clinics. According to Tony Moore [sp?], a former worker at the clinic, Barbara Lofton, who is not a doctor, continued to flaunt phony professional credentials at Hillview.

TONY MOORE, former Employee, Hillview Clinic: When she first hired me, she introduced herself as "Dr Lofton" and she had a stethoscope which was quite expensive, like, about a $300 model and she wore scrubs and most of the time I saw her, she was answering the phone as "Dr. Lofton."

VIEIRA: So all the time you were working there, you tbought she was a doctor?

Mr. MOORE: Right.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] But as we said, Lofton isn't an M.D. and in this videotape deposition for Susanne Logan's lawsuit, she admits she's not qualified to practice medicine.

ATTORNEY: [deposition videotape] Have you ever been licensed as any kind of health care provider in any jurisdiction?

BARBARA LOFTON: Owner, Hillvlew Clinic: No.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Lofton did hire licensed physicians who moonlighted at Hillview, performing up to 25 abortions a day. But when they were unavailable to handle other clinic duties, we're told she simply took their place. Frequently, Brenda Davis [sp?], a former Hillview employee, assisted her.

[interviewing] Did she perform medical procedures?

BRENDA DAVIS, former Empployee, Hillview Clinic: Pelvic exams, cultures, prescribed medicine.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Davis says at least one doctor at Hillview would leave blank prescription pads with his signature on them.

Ms. DAVIS: Well, on one night we ran out of signed prescriptions and Barbara was, like, "Oh, I have a pad here," you know, that the doctor signed. And I said, "OK." So I went with her and actually what she did, she took a blank pen [sic] and she wrote his name.

VIEIRA: So she forged --

Ms. DAVIS: Yeah. She wrote his name and she said, "Don't ever tell anyone I did that."

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Some patients at Hillview claim Lofton has gone even further than that. This patient, Elizabeth, who asked us to disguise her identity, says that when she went to Hillview for an abortion, Barbara Lofton told her she would personally take on her case.

ELIZABETH: former Hillview Patient: She told me that she was Dr. Lofton and she told me that she would do it herself, not to worry.

VIEIRA: So you thought she was a medical doctor?


VIEIRA: [voice-overl Elizabeth is suing Hillview for a badly-performed abortion. Herb Fulcher [sp?] says his girlfriend, Linda Brown [sp?], may soon do the same thing. When he came to pick Linda up at the clinic, Barbara Lofton was waiting for him.

HERB FULCHER: She said "We had problems, accidentally hit an artery." So I went in the back and they had a sheet wrapped around her bottom, like a baby diaper. And she was just blood everywhere covered. She was just laying in her own blood.

VIEIRA: [voice over] By the time pararmedics got Linda to a hospital, she had almost bled to death. To save her life, doctors performed an emergency hysterectomy. She was 19.

[interviewing] If they hadn't gotten to you within 10 to 12 minutes you would have died?

LINDA BROWN, former Hillview Patient: Yes.

Mr. FULCHER: Now she'll never have a child again. That's what the doctor said. She'll never be able to have children again.

Ms. LOFTON: [deposition videotape] No matter how good we are, accidents occur.

VIEIRA: [voice-overl Lofton's idea of an accident is pretty loose, as Susanne's lawyer, Patrick Malone, discovered.

Mr. MALONE: [deposition videotape] And isn't that something that you realized before the incident with my client? There were accidents before that incident, weren't there?

Ms. LOFTON: One.

Mr. MALONE: And that involved a death, did it not?

Ms. LOFTON: It did, in fact.

TAM GRAY [sp?]: It's sad to think that people can go in and have a safe procedure, what they think is safe, and die.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Tam Gray thought when her sister went to Hillview that she would have dinner with her that night, but Deborah [sp?] didn't make it. She died at the clinic.

Ms. GRAY: The outcome was just like a back-alley abortion.

VIEIRA: Dld they say what had happened to her that --

Ms. GRAY: They said something about anesthesia and why that was even administered is still beyond me.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Deborah paid $200 extra to be put to sleep. Even though abortions can almost always be done with the patient awake, Tony Moore said he knows why the clinic pushed the far riskier option of general anesthesia.

Mr. MOORE: It would be more money. That's the bottom line. It would have -- it would be more money to be put to sleep or twilighted.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] Soon after Hillview gave Deborah the anesthesia, her heart stopped.

[interviewing] I'm with 60 Minutes. Could I talk to you for a minute? I mean, I'm hearing reports of prescriptions being written without a license and botched abortions and --

[voice-over] I wanted to talk to Barbara Lofton about those reports, but Lofton didn't think there was much to talk about. Initially, neither did any of the abortion rights activists we contacted. As a reporter, I found that many pro-choice leaders knew about problems at Hillview, but didn't want them publicized. National Abortion Federation head Barbara Radford [sp?] admitted she was just hoping we would go away.

BARBARA RADFORD, Head, National Abortion Federation: Well, I think your first reaction from us was "This is the last thing we need." We had hoped that it wouldn't get national publicity because of the political nature of all of this.

VlEIRA: Pro-choice activists worry that clinics like Hillview will be used against them in the bitter political battle over abortion. They fear bad publicity will prompt state legislators to start regulating clinics and that pro-lifers will then use those regulations as a backdoor way to stop abortions. So even though those laws could make clinics sater, they usually fight them.

Mr. MALONE: You have to be licensed in the state of Maryland if you want to open a junkyard and deal in scrap metal, but in the state of Maryland you do not have to be licensed if you want to open an abortion clinic and deal in human lives.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] That's something State Senator Mary Boergers would like to see changed. She's pro-choice, but she favors laws to make clinics safer. It's a position that has cost her support among her pro-choice colleagues.

MARY BOERGER, Maryland State Senator: There's only so much of a willingness to try to push a group like the pro-choice movement to do what I think is the responsible thing to do because they then treat you as if you're the enemy.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] But Radford says regulations aren't necessary because the state already has enough power to go after doctors who work at clinics. True, the state can investigate individual physicians, but when one doctor gets into trouble at Hillview, Lofton simply hires another one. The state can't touch Lofton or her clinic.

Sen. BOERGER: I think we have the responsibility of coming up with some legislation if we really care about all the women of the state.

Ms. RADFORD: We want to make sure that women have choices when it comes to abortion service and if you regulate it too strictly, you then deny women the access to service.

Sen. BOERGER: When we say what we're trying to do is guarantee safe abortions and eliminate back-alley, unsafe abortons, and yet you can demonstrate that there's a woman who's died and another woman who's paralyzed, then not only that argument but all arguments from the pro-choice community can become suspect.

VIEIRA: [voice-over] There is no argument on either side that will help Susanne Logan. She spends most of her days alone in the nursing home. She rarely has visitors. Her family lives in California and can't afford the trip to Baltimore very often.

[interviewing] What do you want now, Susanne? What would you like? [Ms. Logan picks out letters on keypad] To go home.

[on camera] On Friday, a grand jury in the District of Columbia announced that Barbara Lofton was indicted on nine counts of Medicaid fraud in connection with the mental health homes she operated in the District of Columbia. But Hillview is still open. Barbara Lofton is still running it and she denies that she or the clinic have done anything wrong. Are all clinics that perform abortions run by Barbara Loftons? No. Both the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood have strict standards for their member clinics and in 11 states, there are laws governing how abortion clinics are run.

[commercial break]

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