And other amazing stuff you’ll find in public record documents
“Respondent is engaging in the practice of medicine without adhering to appropriate sanitary practices and poses a danger to the public health.”
Who’s this Thamrong guy?
Why get copies of health department and medical board documents? How else can you find out what the abortionist has in his refrigerator? And abortionist Benjamin P. Thamrong had some of the strangest stuff in his.
Thamrong first came to my attention when somebody sent a clipping of the North Jersey Herald & News for Dec. 22, 1989. A woman said she’d met Thamrong when he performed an abortion on her in 1977. He hired her as a receptionist and had an extramarital affair with her. She alleged that it was his mistreatment of her that prompted her to throw their 2-year-old son to his death from the top of an apartment building, then leap herself.
Thamrong originally opened his facility in 1981, in an area of Fairfield Township not zoned for clinics. Thamrong filed six $1 million lawsuits against the township and its officers, demanding hearings to prove that the facility, which he advertised as a clinic, was actually his private office. The hearings found that the North Jersey Women’s Health Organization (WHO) leased the building, owned the equipment, hired and paid staff, handled all the financial arrangements, and had written a manual classifying the facility as a clinic. Thamrong and WHO officer Susan Hill protested that the manual wasn’t something anybody actually followed, and that they actually made all their arrangements verbally. The hearing also uncovered irregularities in Thamrong’s federal tax returns, such as claiming WHO’s expenditures as his own business expenses.
So before we even check with the powers that be, we find a crazed former abortion patient turned receptionist/lover who killed their child then tried to kill herself, we find dubious business practices, and we find evidence of federal income tax evasion.
We checked to see what other strangeness had been going on around Dr. Benjamin P. Thamrong. From a New Jersey Administrative Complaint filed Oct. 3, 1989, we learned the following:
A patient I’ll call “Bianca” had abortion done by Thamrong in his office on Jan. 14, 1988. On January 17, she passed a fetal head. A medical examiner estimated the head as from an 18 to 22-week fetus. Bianca’s records were subpoenaed January 22. On Jan. 28 a lab picked up a specimen from Thamrong’s office, labeled with Bianca’s name, containing a specimen of a 6-8 week fetus. The health department obtained Bianca’s chart from Thamrong. “The chart was completely typed with no handwritten entries and indicated that [Bianca] was only 12+ weeks pregnant.” The wrong blood type was entered in the chart. The board alleged violation of a law limiting abortions done in doctors’ offices to less than 16 weeks of gestation. It also alleged the submission of falsified records and “employment of dishonesty, fraud, deception or misrepresentation.”
Concerning another patient I’ll call “Rachel,” the board noted that during 1986 Thamrong issued 19 prescriptions each for 30-day supplies of Seconal and 40 Percodan for Rachel, but he maintained no patient record for her. In 1987 he prescribed at least 14 prescriptions each for 30 Seconal and 40 Percodan for Rachel. Over a 32-day period in 1988 he gave Rachel prescriptions for 120 doses of Seconal and 160 doses of Percodan. The board said, “The dispensing of Seconal and Percodan to [Rachel] was done without medical justification with an apparent lack of regard for the significant abuse potential of this drug and with gross disregard for the life, health, safety and welfare of said person.” The complaint also leveled additional charges of prescribing similarly excessive amounts of controlled substances to at least six other patients, usually without office visits. “Many if not most of [Thamrong’s] patient records are difficult to read or follow and are sketchy at best. It is difficult to tell how he arrived at the diagnoses and the plans for treatment almost never look beyond the immediate prescription of medication.”
The complaint also noted that records for at least nine patients showed virtually identical vital signs. “Virtually all respiratory rates were 20, virtually all pulse rates were 70, the vast majority of temperatures were exactly 98.6, and the vast majority of blood pressures were either 120/80 or 110/70, totally out of line with the normal expected day to day variations in vital signs, indicating that respondent did not accurately measure them or did not measure them at all.”
The complaint also noted Thamrong’s failure to promptly deliver patient records in response to the subpoena, with extensions and delays of in some cases over three months. Some patient records sent in response to the subpoena had been altered or added to since they had been observed during the inspection. For example, patient “Ophilia’s” file at the time of inspection recorded three visits, with information largely limited to her name and the date. The records forwarded in response to the subpoena were completely filled out, including the addition of an abortion procedure form, a note on Ophilia’s Rh-negative blood, and lab reports.
Is this a clinic?
The complaint also covered an inspection of the abortion facility itself. The complaint noted:
The cover of the examination table was dirty and torn. The suction machine container and tubing were dirty and stained. Thamrong’s abortion patients were treated in procedure room replete with unsterile instruments, expired supplies, soiled gauze, a dirty speculum, and soiled suction tubing. The facility had no emergency equipment.
Patients were sent for recovery to a room that contained two recliner chairs, a disused autoclave, a tray full of instruments to be sterilized — and nothing that could be used to check their blood pressure.
And let’s not forget the refrigerator. It contained: expired medications, three syringes, a dirty carving knife, a specimen envelope containing a tube of blood collected 22 days earlier, one mostly-eaten salad, one partially-empty bottle each of Coca Cola and Sunkist soda, a bottle of Yoo Hoo, a half-full bottle of Riuniti peach wine, and a quarter-full bottle of Asti Spumanti with a paper towel stuffed in the top.
Aside from the question of why medical specimens and staff lunches were kept in the same fridge, I couldn’t figure out if this guy was a tasteless tippler, or a dropout from the Belfast School of Bartending. And who, pray tell, was slurping down Riuniti on the premises of a medical practice? And was this imbibing taking place before or after the patients were led into the unsavory procedure room?
The complaint also alleged that Thamrong had been falsifying insurance forms.
So then what?
Thamrong was sentenced to four years’ probation for billing Medicaid for abortions patients had already paid for. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $12,088 in restitution — despite his plea that he was deeply in debt and that he’d find it a hardship to pay.
And how did Thamrong respond, once his faults had been discovered? He presented health department inspectors with gift-wrapped boxes of money (one containing $1,000 and one containing $500). The investigators reported the transaction as an attempted bribe. Boxed in, Thamrong finally surrendered his license.
And lest you dismiss Thamrong as a fly-by-night flake, I’ll take a minute to remind you that he was operating under the auspices of the Women’s Health Organization — which has been, and still may be, a National Abortion Federation member organization. WHO “was founded in 1976 with the goal to provide exceptional medical services to women in a safe and comfortable environment,” says their Web site. “All clinics” it goes on, “comply with Federal, State and Local regulations and meet or exceed all medical standards.”
Did NAF and WHO know what kind of place this was, or did they just not care?
Sources: New York Daily News 7-13-92; New Jersey Administrative Complaint filed 10-3-89; North Jersey Herald & News 12-22-89; The Chronicle 10-20-82, 2-9-83, 3-16-83, 3-23-83, 3-2-84