SUMMARY: Semika Shaw, age 22, died March 4, 2000 after an abortion performed by Kermit Gosnell at his Women’s Medical Society (pictured) in Philadelphia, PA.Kermit GosnellIn March of 2000, Semika Shirelle Shaw underwent an abortion at Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia office. Semika, a 22-year-old mother of two, called Gosnell’s office the next day to report heavy bleeding, but according to court documents she was not instructed to seek care. Two days later, she died of sepsis and a perforated uterus.
Here is the segment of the Grand Jury Report concerning Semika’s death:
On October 9, 2002, the Professional Underwriters Liability Insurance Company reported to theState Board of Medicine that it had paid a $400,000 settlement to the family of Semika Shaw, the 22- year-old mother of two who died following an abortion procedure at Gosnell’s clinic in March 2000. (In January 2003, the Pennsylvania Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss Fund reported to the Department of State that it had paid an additional $500,000 toward a $900,000 award to the family.) The October 9 report is logged in as “received” by theDepartment of State’s “Complaints Office” on December 6, 2002. The file turned over to the Grand Jury shows no further activity until over a year later – January 2, 2004 – when a one-page printout of Gosnell’s license information is stamped “received” by the complaints office.
The next action recorded in the file is a one-paragraph “Prosecution Evaluation,” dated April 29, 2004, in which Mark Greenwald, a prosecuting attorney for the Board of Medicine purportedly summarizes the case and concludes: “Prosecution not Warranted.” Here is the paragraph:
- Brief Factual Summary: The file was opened as a result of a Medical Malpractice Payment Report. The underlying malpractice case involved the death of a 22 year old female following the termination of her 5th pregnancy. Following a seemingly routine procedure on 3/1/02, the patient was taken to the ER at the University of Pennsylvania with complaints of pain and heavy bleeding. The patient underwent surgery but the surgeon was unable to locate any perforation and the patient died from infection and sepsis. Although the incident is tragic, especially in light of the age of the patient, the risk was inherent with the procedure performed by Respondent [Gosnell] and administrative action against respondent’s license is not warranted.
- RECOMMENDATION: Z-02, Prosecution not Warranted
In fact, all the information in this single paragraph is taken entirely – including incorrect dates – from the insurance company’s original paragraph-long report sent to the Board in October 2002. And yet, while Greenwald included the irrelevant, but pointed, assertion that this was the patient’s fifth pregnancy that was being terminated (note: the report said that this was the patient’s fifth pregnncy, not her 5th abortion — ed), the Department of State prosecutor omitted from his summary the most important information that the insurance company had provided: “Autopsy report indicated perforation of cervix into uterus. Heirs alleged our insured improperly performed the termination procedure and failed to diagnose post-op uterine perforation resulting in sepsis and death.”
Greenwald’s supervisor, Charles J. Hartwell, the Senior Prosecutor-in-Charge at the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, purportedly reviewed Greenwald’s “evaluation” and approved it on May 14, 2004. Hartwell did so, ostensibly, knowing nothing beyond the bare facts that Semika Shaw died from infection and sepsis two days after Gosnell perforated her uterus and cervix during an abortion procedure. (Greenwald also omitted from his evaluation that the insurance carrier had settled the case for $900,000, the majority of which had to be disbursed by a Pennsylvania catastrophic expense fund.)
Before Department of State prosecutors decided not to investigate the 22-year-old patient’s death, they had been told of Gosnell’s many illegal practices. What makes these prosecutors’ inaction even more astonishing is that they did know more than the bare facts included in the Board attorney’s evaluation of the case. On the same day in 2004 that they decided not to do anything about Semika Shaw’s death, these same two prosecutors also closed the investigation into the complaint brought to the Department of State more than two years earlier by Marcella Stanley Choung. That was the complaint that had alerted the Board of Medicine – eight years before Karnamaya Mongar died – to almost all of the same violations revealed by this Grand Jury’s investigation.
Semika’s cousin, Pennsylvania Representative Margo Davidson, favored laws to enforce standards for the state’s abortion practices. She told reporters about Semika’s young children sobbing and not being able to understand why their mother wouldn’t get up. (“Legislator explains her backing of abortion crackdown,”
Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), Dec. 16, 2011)
Semika’s cousin tells her story: