Doctors Felt Threatened by Klvana, His Attorney Says
Dr. Milos Klvana, the Valencia obstetrician accused of second-degree murder in the deaths of eight infants and a fetus, was “a maverick” whose out-of-hospital deliveries caused traditional physicians and hospitals to turn on him, his lawyer said Monday.
Rita-Jane Baird, one of two attorneys representing Klvana, hinted in a brief opening statement to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that the doctor is being singled out for prosecution because the medical establishment feels threatened by the low-cost competition of his home births.
“The medical establishment began to withdraw their support for him, because after all, he was taking business away from the hospitals,” Baird said.
Unlicensed Midwife Tried
Klvana, 48, is charged with nine counts of murder. He is being tried with unlicensed midwife Delores Doyle, 36, of Montclair, who is charged with second-degree murder in three of the deaths. Each also faces other felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, insurance fraud and grand theft.
Baird’s remarks came after the jury heard a three-day opening statement last week by the prosecutor in the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Brian R. Kelberg.
The deaths, between 1982 and 1986, occurred after several common complications of pregnancy arose, and Klvana and Doyle did not recommend hospital treatment, Kelberg said. The prosecution will not try to establish that either defendant meant to harm any baby, he said. Rather, each knew the potentially deadly consequences of not transporting those mothers or newborns to a hospital, he said.
Moreover, they both knew that they did not have the basic medical skills to handle the complications, one of which was prolonged labor, Kelberg said.
But Baird countered Monday that Klvana, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, delivered “hundreds and hundreds” of babies safely after opening his first medical practice in Southern California in 1977.
‘He Was a Maverick’
Mothers came to him for several reasons, Baird said. Some had religious beliefs against hospital treatment and blood transfusions. Others did not want to give birth in a hospital, and others came because Klvana charged about a third of what most hospitals charged, she said.
“He was a maverick,” Baird said. “He was out to give care to his patients that he thought they deserved.”
Baird characterized the case as “simply a voluminous attempt” by the district attorney’s office “to expand the concept of murder to convict a small doctor who practices people’s medicine.”
She added that the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance, which regulates and licenses doctors in California, investigated several of the deaths and took no action against Klvana.
Kelberg said outside the courtroom that the medical board’s inquiry was not thorough enough, partly because Klvana misled investigators by altering medical charts and making false statements.
Doyle’s attorney, Maxwell S. Keith, told jurors that the midwife should not be held culpable for the deaths because when trouble arose during deliveries, she did the proper thing by calling a doctor--Klvana.
“If anyone is not a killer, it’s Mrs. Doyle,” Keith said.
Doyle performed about 400 successful deliveries from about 1980 until her arrest in 1986, Keith said. He cited one breech delivery, in which the baby came out hindquarters first, where Doyle “performed brilliantly.”
“When the chips were down, as they must have been, Mrs. Doyle is no slouch,” Keith said.