Stacy Ruckman, age 23, died on February 20, 1988 from a deliberate, massive overdose of Lidocaine administered by Scott Barrett at his Central Health Center for Women in Springfield, IL.
When 23-year-old Stacy Lea Ruckman had just gotten a new job when she went to Scott Barrett for a safe and legal abortion on February 20, 1988. Unfortunately, she didn’t know how he anesthetized his patients at Central Health Center for Women in Springfield, Missouri.
Barrett began the abortion at around 5 p.m. There are conflicting reports about what happened next.
Some sources say that during the abortion, Stacy stopped breathing, Barrett and his staff were unable to revive her.
Another source had Stacy on the table for half an hour without mishap, but collapsing when she got off the table at 6 p.m. This story is less than credible, since abortions don’t usually taken an entire hour.
Staff called an ambulance, but the medics found Stacy in full cradio-respiratory arrest, with unresponsive pupils. The resuscitation attempts made by paramedics included suctioning “copious amounts of blood” from Stacy’s airway, inserting an endotrecheal tube, administering medications and oxygen, putting in an IV, and using a defibrillator.
They transferred Stacy to the emergency room, where she had a racing pulse and fixed, dilated pupils. She was unable to breathe on her own. The hospital transfused her with packed red blood cells and gave her additional IV fluids, but her EEG “revealed findings consistent with brain death”
Stacy’s parents, who hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant, rushed to the hospital to find that they daughter they’d loved so well was gone. They agreed with the doctors to remove life support, and Stacy was pronounced dead at 11:34 p.m.
That night when we walked out of the hospital I just felt like I left part of me in there. Part of me was dead,” Stacy’s mother Judith said. You carry a child for nine months and something like that happens, you feel like you lost part of yourself, part of your body. And you’re never going to get it back.”
Stacy’s father requested an autopsy, which found toxic concentrations of Lidocaine in Stacy’s blood. Her serum level, as tested in blood drawn 2 hour after the abortion, was 8.1 ug/ml, or more than five times the therapeutic level of 1.5 ug/ml. An expert who testified later estimated that, based on how fast the body metabolizes Lidocaine, the amount in her system at the time of the abortion could have been as high as 16 ug/ml, over ten times the therapeutic dose.
In order to rule out other causes of death, the coroner examined ten times the normal number of specimens, looking for signs of an amniotic fluid embolism. He could find no such evidence. He also found no evidence of “any naturally occurring disease process which could account for Ms. Ruckman’s death.” What he did find was “history of a grand mal seizure and cardiac arrest after a ‘therapeutic’ abortion at 13.8 weeks gestation.” Stacy also had suffered cerebral and pulmonary edema (swelling of the brain and lungs), pulmonary hemorrhage (excessive bleeding in the lungs), clotted and unclotted blood in her mouth and nose, around 55 cc of bloody fluid surrounding her lungs, and another 200 cc’s of bloody fluid in her pelvic cavity.
Stacy’s parents sued. An anesthesiologist was asked under oath to give any and all possible medically valid reasons for administering that high a dose of Lidocaine; he repeatedly answered that he could think of none. The only reason he could think of — not a medically valid one — was to speed up the abortion. Barrett’s nurse testified that he tupically did 35-40 abortions per day, at $300 each.
She, and other staff, also testified that Barrett routinely gave patients massive dosed of Lidocaine in order to render them unconscious.
The court found that Barrett altered or falsified Stacy’s records in attempt to cover his culpability. The Medical board likewise implicated Barrett in Stacy’s death.
A jury awarded Stacy’s parents $25.3 million for the wrongful death of their daughter — $330,000 in actual damages, and $25 million in aggravated damages. However, Barrett carried no insurance and was not represented at all during the trial; he himself failed to show up.
- Southeast Missourian March 1990;
- Springfield News-Leader 1-29-91, 2-9-91, 3-18-92;
- Kansas City Star 8-7-92;
- Columbia Daily Tribune 1-29-91;
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch 3-5-90, 1-30-91;
- Springfield Post-Dispatch 8-19-92;
- Associated Press 3-7-90;
- Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission Case no. 90-00255HA;
- Autopsy Report N-88-A-1;
- Transcript from Greene County Circuit Court Case No. CV188-675CC2;
- “Witness: Doctor violated creed,” Springfield News-Leader, Mar. 19, 1992;
- “State Files Complaints Against 2 Abortion Doctors,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 5, 1990;
- Chicago Daily Law Bulletin;
- “A Trail of Death and Gruesome Injuries,” Hartford Courant, Jun. 23, 2003.