On Tuesday, September 14th, 2009, a Massachusetts doctor, Rapin Osathanondh,was sentenced to six months in jail (three months in prison followed by nine months of home confinement with electronic monitoring) and three years probation for pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter of a 22-year-old Cape Cod woman who died on September 13, 2007 from “cardiac pulmonary arrest during anesthesia during a voluntary termination of pregnancy”, according to officials. The woman, Laura Smith, had an elective abortion at the Women’s Health Center in Hyannis in 2007 and, while under anesthesia, went into cardiopulmonary arrest. The Board of Registration in Medicine contended that Dr. Osathanondh “engaged in conduct that calls into question his competence to practice medicine.” After the Board completed its investigation, the doctor’s medical license was suspended, and he then resigned permanently from the practice of medicine.
It is quite rare that the death of a patient from anesthesia complications due to medical malpractice is considered a criminal matter. In this case, however, it is clear that Osathanondh’s actions were more egregious. The abortion practitioner did not monitor her vital signs or provide oxygen, did not have a functioning blood pressure cuff, and did not call 911 in a timely manner. Also, his assistant during the procedure was an office worker with no CPR or resuscitation training. Eileen Smith, the mother of Laura Smith, was shocked by the details of Rapin Osathanondh’s practice: “He has no medical staff, just a receptionist and a hand holder…. This doctor is practicing third-world medicine in the medical mecca of the world. This goes beyond medical negligence.”
As a result of an investigation conducted by Swartz & Swartz, P.C., incriminating evidence was obtained against the doctor, which was provided to the District Attorney’s office and the Board of Registration in Medicine. A criminal indictment for involuntary manslaughter was issued. On September 13, 2010, the third anniversary of Laura Smith’s death, the Defendant agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
As part of the agreement of the sentencing on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, Osathanondh was given twenty-four hours to make arrangements to settle the civil lawsuit that Swartz & Swartz, P.C. filed on behalf of Laura Smith’s parents. Through negotiations with Swartz & Swartz, P.C., Osathanondh agreed to pay the family two million dollars ($2,000,000.00) for the wrongful death of Laura Smith. According to Swartz & Swartz, P.C., “both cases are the family’s quest for justice for Smith.” Eileen Smith said: “Nobody won. Laura got justice, but it’s a tragedy all the way around.”
This case sets a precedent for legal and medical practitioners and prosecutors across the nation — medical practitioners can and should be held criminally accountable for their reckless and grossly negligent conduct resulting in the death of their patients. Now, not only will such physicians be charged civilly, but hopefully, in appropriate circumstances, justice and public safety will be served when criminal charges are also pursued. Most importantly, it will serve as a deterrent so such preventable deaths due to medical malpractice will not happen again. For more information on protecting your rights, and options following medical negligence, please contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, P.C. for a free consultation.