Hyannis, MA – The first hearing was held last week in the wrongful death suit brought by Eileen Smith against abortionist Rapin Osathanondh in the abortion-related death of her daughter, Laura, last year.
Judge Robert Rufo prohibited Osathanondh from selling any real estate he may own and ordered that the medical equipments in the abortion clinic on the day Laura died be preserved unaltered. He also ordered that all medical records of all patients treated that day be preserved without alteration.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe told the Cape Cod Times that indictments would be sought against Osathanondh when a grand jury is convened next month.
Operation Rescue broke the story of Laura Smith’s death and worked with Eileen Smith to help bring Osathanondh to justice.
The complete news report of the hearing, published in the Cape Cod Times, is reprinted below for your convenience.
Doctor faces lawsuit, possible indictment
By Hilary Russ, STAFF WRITER
March 21, 2008
BARNSTABLE – The gynecologist whose patient died after an abortion at his Hyannis clinic last year is now facing a wrongful death suit and a possible grand jury indictment.
Dr. Rapin Osathanondh was sued by Eileen Smith in Barnstable Superior Court on March 10 for wrongful death, according to electronic court records. Smith isn’t seeking a specific monetary amount but will ask a jury to award punitive damages for gross negligence in the death of her daughter, according to David Angueira, Smith’s Boston lawyer.
Smith’s daughter, Laura Hope Smith, 22, of Sandwich died Sept. 13 after an abortion was performed at Osathanondh’s former clinic at 68 Camp St. Smith filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, and Osathanondh resigned his medical license last month.
“This is not your standard medical malpractice case,” Angueira said in court yesterday. “This doctor did something really wrong.”
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe confirmed yesterday that he would seek a criminal indictment against Osathanondh when a Barnstable County grand jury convenes next month. No other patients have come to his office with complaints against Osathanondh since Laura Smith’s story first became public, he said.
O’Keefe declined to comment further.
After her daughter died, Smith first filed a claim in civil court to get access to her daughter’s medical records, which she has since received.
The first hearing in the subsequent wrongful death case was held yesterday afternoon before Judge Robert Rufo. In court, Angueira claimed Laura Smith was not properly monitored while she was under anaesthesia. Her vital signs were not monitored at all, he charged.
He also claimed that the medical board first suspended Osathanondh’s license and that the doctor chose to resign several hours later.
Defense attorney Kenneth Kohlberg rebutted that claim. “He was not suspended. He was never suspended,” Kohlberg said. When Osathanondh gave up his license, which is considered a disciplinary action, medical board members were constrained from discussing the case further.
The new lawsuit “doesn’t have merit,” Kohlberg said in court. “The defendant is certainly going to contend that it was an unfortunate medical result.”
Osathanondh, whose primary practice was in Brookline, has a distinguished medical record and practiced for 40 years, Kohlberg said.
Smith also sought an injunction preventing Osathanondh from selling his real estate pending the outcome of her wrongful death suit. Rufo yesterday prohibited the doctor from selling or transferring any real estate without the court’s approval, though a request to limit his access to other personal assets was not granted.
Smith and her attorney were seeking financial control because any settlement they might receive from a jury could exceed Osathanondh’s $1 million insurance policy, Angueira said.
“The cart is way, way before the horse,” Kohlberg said in court before the real estate injunction was granted. He has requested a medical malpractice tribunal — a doctor, judge and lawyer who determine if there is enough evidence for a plaintiff to go to trial, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Web site.
“There are two sides to this story,” Kohlberg said after court. He declined to comment further, citing the pending litigation. Osathanondh was not in court.
Rufo also ordered that all medical equipment at the office the day Laura Smith died, along with all the medical records from all patients treated that day, be preserved unaltered.
Hilary Russ can be reached at hruss@capecodonline.com