Summary: Guadalupe Negron, age 33, died July 9, 1993 after an abortion by David Benjamin at his Metro Women's Center in Queens, NY.

Guadalupe Negron, age 33, went for a safe, legal abortion at Metro Women's Center in Queens, New York, on July 9, 1993, accompanied by her niece. She had found the facility advertised in a Spanish-language newspaper. Guadalupe was to start a new job as a nurse's aide in four days, so it seemed that she had chosen well when she decided to come to New York from Honduras to build a better life for herself and her four children, three of whom she had left behind in Honduras. She had not told her husband that she was pregnant.

DavidBenjamin.jpgA receptionist for the facility noted that after Dr. David Benjamin had performed Guadalupe's abortion at 10AM, she was moved to the recovery room, bloody and with instructions that she was to be "cleaned up," and left unattended for over an hour while Benjamin did other abortions. When Benjamin's wife, Jacqueline Bonrouhi, who acted as his assistant, brought Guadalupe into an examination room, she came out screaming "Oh my God! Oh my God!" and "Call the ambulance! Call the ambulance!" However, the ambulance was not summoned until 1:40 PM.

When paramedics arrived, they found Guadalupe naked and bloody, lying in vomit, with a nurse screaming and trying to revive her in a small, unventilated room with an inadequate oxygen tank and no necessary equipment such as a blood pressure cuff. They also noted that Benjamin had inserted a breathing tube into Guadalupe's stomach instead of her trachea, causing stomach fluids to travel up the tube, into her mouth, and down into her lungs.

The paramedics also indicated that they were hindered in their attempts to save Guadalupe's life because Benjamin lied to them about the nature of her problem. She was pronounced dead on arrival at New York Hospital Center in Queens.

The autopsy report found that in trying to extract a 20-week fetus, Benjamin had lacerated Guadalupe's cervix and punctured her uterus, leaving a tear over 3 inches long. She hemorrhaged and went into shock and cardiac arrest. Authorities determined that Benjamin had initiated the risky procedure without having first examined the patient.

GuadalupeNegronRochesterNYDemocratAndChronicle13Aug1993.pngBenjamin had charged Guadalupe $800 for the abortion that ended her life and all her dreams for her family. The children she had left behind with a relative in Honduras wound up living in different homes with different relatives instead of in the home Guadalupe had planned for them.

Benjamin was indicted for second degree murder due to "depraved indifference to human life." One of the paramedics told a reporter, "I wouldn't take my dog there (Benjamin's clinic)." New York newspapers covering Benjamin's murder trial discovered that the Iranian immigrant had a long history of malpractice and had changed his name from Elias Bonrouhi to David Benjamin in order to cover up his record.

During the trial, Benjamin tried to claim that he had thought Guadalupe was only 13 weeks pregnant, only to discover after starting that she was closer to 19 weeks pregnant. "I sucked out the placenta," he testified. "The tube is transparent, and I watched as the placenta came through. I'm looking for the fetus; then I suspect that maybe I made a mistake. Again, I do a thorough examination, and I find out the infant is bigger than I expected. I decide to go forward."

However, during the cross examination, it was revealed that he'd done a sonogram clearly indicting the real age of the fetus -- a finding in keeping with Guadalupe's own estimate of how long she'd been pregnant. It had taken him about half an hour to remove the fetus in about a dozen pieces.

Paramedic Freddie Neboa testified that Benjamin's wife was pushing on Guadalupe's stomach instead of her sternum to try to perform CPR. "While the female was performing CPR on her stomach, fluids and food were coming into her face mask and back into her. There was no indication she was alive. She was dead. When we arrived on the scene we advised the female to stop pushing her stomach. We checked her pulse and there was none. Her nail beds were blue. Her lips were blue and her pupils were fully dilated." The defense questioned Neboa about not questioning Benjamin about the reason for the patent's condition, and Meboa pointed out that as a medic, he is supposed to trust a more highly-licensed professional, such as a physician.

Benjamin's receptionist, Maria Cabrera, testified that he had known all along how advanced Guadalupe's pregnancy was because he had been right next to her as she was setting up Guadalupe's appointment and quoting a fee based on the last menstrual period. She also disagreed with Benjamin's assertion that it had take twenty minutes for the ambulance arrived. Cabrera said that the medics arrived about eight or ten minutes after they were called. The defense attacked her on cross examination, noting that she remembered very few other details about that day other than those directly involved in the patient's death.

Benjamin was convicted, with the jury of five women and seven men taking just over two hours to deliberate. They told reporters that they were appalled by Benjamin's arrogance, lack of remorse, and lack of appreciation of how badly he had bungled the case. One juror said, "He was guilty, but he felt he wasn't. On the past complaints about him as a doctor, he felt he was right at every turn and never tried to correct them. He was arrogant and displayed a 'don't care' attitude."

The jury forewoman said, "It was quite a quick decision. The pictures of his clinic were disgusting. The inside was very unsanitary. He knew she was 19 weeks pregnant. Why did he perform a second-trimester abortion?" She and the other jurors also noted that, "Throughout the trial, his lawyer said Dr. Benjamin didn't know the woman had died. But when we listened to the tape, we clearly heard his wife say, 'She's dead! She's dead!'" This, one juror said, clinched the verdict.

As he was led from the courtroom, Benjamin shouted over his shoulder, "You will be punished for this!"

Benjamin's lawyer pressed for the minimum 15-year sentence, saying, "Fifteen years is a pretty loud message. Judge, he's no threat. This man brings no danger to society. He's a man who tried to do his job."

The prosecutor, on the other hand, described what Benjamin did to Guadalupe as "more awful than when an 18-year-old walks into a store to do a holdup and someone gets killed. .... He saw that laceration and he deliberately ignored it. He parked her in another room and left her to die."

When sentencing Benjamin to 25-to-life, the judge pronounced, "His medical license had been revoked because he was not capable of performing rudimentary procedures. Instead of sending her to a hospital, he chose to take the almighty dollar. .... I don't think you can find a better case for depraved-indifference murder. He chased a dollar and didn't care about his patient."

Reporter Lynette Holloway noted, "Before the justice announced the sentence, Dr. Benjamin delivered an animated but rambling 27-minute statement, defending his 25 years as a doctor. He blamed the paramedics for Mrs. Negron's death, saying they opted to eat lunch rather than rush to the emergency call. 'They should have called 911 back to say: "I am eating. Please send someone else,"' Dr. Benjamin told the justice. 'They were only six blocks away. I walk faster than that. They should be charged with depraved indifference for eating and not saving a patient's life.'"

Abortion activist Bill Baird attended the trial with Benjamin's wife and her mother, and denounced the sentence as "a public stoning, and said that the judge who sentenced his fellow abortionist was incapable of compassion or mercy.

None of Guadalupe's family attended the trial.

Benjamin's attorney, Brad Leventhal, announced immediately that Benjamin would appeal, expressing concern about the effect the conviction would have on doctors. "The message to doctors is that you'd better be looking over your shoulder, because some DA out there might want to indict you for murder."

Arthur Caplan, chairman of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania responded, "Good! If you're a doctor you should look over your shoulder. ... The profession has done a lousy job of policing its own."

Benjamin's conviction was upheld on appeal.

However, Guadalupe's husband Herminio (alt. Armenio) and their children held that the medical board had contributed to their mother's death by allowing such a quack to practice. They filed suit because this man that the Board itself had labeled a "risk to the community" in 1985 and 1993 had been permitted to kill their mother. However, the state won the case.

Related opinion pieces:

Sources:
  • Medical Board Order No. BPMC-93-79
  • Department of Health and Human Services Appeals Board Docket No. C-98-353, Decision No. CR681
  • Department of Health and Human Services Department Appeals Board Docket No. C-98-535
  • "Death After Anesthesia at Abortion Clinic," //New York Times// 7-10-93
  • "N.Y.C. abortion doctor is charged with murder," Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, August 13, 1993
  • "Doctor Faces Murder Count In Abortion," New York Times, August 13, 1993
  • "In rare case, doctor is on trial for murder in botched abortion," Marietta (GA) Journal, July 13, 1995
  • "Abortion murder trial opens today for doctor," Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, July 13, 1995
  • "Doctor put on trial for abortion death," Augusta (GA) Chronicle, July 13, 1995
  • "Doctor guilty of killing woman during abortion," Arizona Republic, August 9, 1995
  • "Abortion Doctor Guilty of Murder," New York Times, August 9, 1995
  • "Doctor's criminal conviction sparks debate," White Plains Journal News, August 9, 1995
  • "Mom dies after botched abortion," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 13, 1995
  • "Doctor convicted of murder for botched 1993 abortion," Indiana (PA) Gazette, April 26, 1995
  • "Doctor guilty of murder for botched abortion," Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal, August 9, 1995
  • "Doctors who lose license find ways to keep working," North Hills (PA) News Record, September 11, 1995
  • "Doctor gets 25 years for botched abortion," Carbondale (IL) Southern Illinoisan, September 13, 1995
  • "Doctor gets prison for botched abortion," San Bernardeno County Sun, September 13, 1995
  • "Court: N.Y. not liable in murder," Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, March 6, 1996
  • "Court upholds conviction," Poughkeepsie Journal, March 24, 2000

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