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Obstetrician’s License Is Temporarily Lifted

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County Superior Court judge temporarily revoked the license Friday of a controversial Anaheim obstetrician under whose care two newborn infants have died since August.

Judge Eileen C. Connor issued the temporary restraining order at the request of the Medical Board of California, which alleges that the doctor has displayed “a clear pattern of incompetence.” The board has, since June, been seeking to have the doctor stripped of his license.

Dr. Charles Wesley Turner Jr. “is a menace to the health and safety of the mothers and babies he treats,” the medical board alleged.

Turner’s admitting privileges were revoked at Santa Ana Hospital Medical Center in 1988 after a peer review found that he had given substandard care to 40% of his patients, court documents show. Turner, 65, now runs the Covenant Birthing Center on land he leases from the Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim.

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Turner, who appeared in court without an attorney and declined to comment, will be given a hearing Dec. 26 to contest the allegations.

Turner’s medical practices drew widespread criticism earlier this year after he told The Times that he had hastened the delivery of a baby last New Year’s Eve so he could display the newborn at a midnight religious service being broadcast on national television from Melodyland.

Turner was already under investigation for gross negligence and incompetence by the Medical Board of California, which had disciplined him for illegal drug prescriptions in 1984, Deputy Atty. Gen. Margaret Lafko said Friday.

Although the New Year’s Eve baby was not harmed, and her parents found no fault with the doctor, medical experts who reviewed the case said Turner was negligent in leaving the anesthetized mother unattended for nine minutes while he whisked the baby outdoors to a building 150 feet away to be viewed by the waiting congregation.

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The publicity generated other complaints against Turner, including evidence of two deaths of infants delivered at the birthing center after high-risk pregnancies, prompting prosecutors to ask the court to strip Turner of his license immediately, Lafko said.

The state medical board alleges that Turner has shown gross negligence or incompetence during 12 deliveries since 1987, five of them at Santa Ana Hospital Medical Center, and seven at his own birthing center.

The first baby who died was the child of a 14-year-old girl whose pregnancy was considered high-risk because of her age, court documents show. Turner allegedly injured the baby during a forceps delivery Aug. 3, then sent him home although he was having trouble breathing. The infant suffered seizures, and was taken to another hospital, where he died two days later, court records show.

In the second death, which took place Thanksgiving Day, a team from the UCI Medical Center in Orange was summoned to the center, where it found a 12 1/2-pound newborn that was delivered with the umbilical cord around its neck and had not breathed since birth, court records show. Turner was allegedly attending the mother while his wife was attempting to resuscitate the baby by mouth through a tube. The oxygen tanks in the birthing center were empty, records show.

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