Donna Heim was 20 when she died during an abortion performed at Her Medical Clinic near downtown Los Angeles.
The death of the preschool teacher from Covina was caused by one of many acts of incompetence and negligence committed against eight patients by Dr. Mahlon Douglas Cannon, according to a recent decision of an administrative law judge adopted last week by the California Medical Board.
Five years after her daughter's death, Barbara Heim hailed the strong--if not swift--move to revoke Cannon's license to practice medicine. Cannon, who currently is performing abortions at Family Planning Associates on South Westmoreland Avenue in Los Angeles, was ordered to surrender his license July 10.
"I'm pleased it finally came about, but I'm also upset that it took so long," Barbara Heim said in an interview.
Meanwhile, Her Medical Clinic continues to operate at 2700 S. Figueroa St. under the ownership of Dr. Leo Kenneally--charged himself by the medical board with negligence and incompetence that allegedly contributed to the deaths of three women, including Donna Heim, and the injury of four others. Kenneally also is accused of maintaining his medical premises in a "filthy and unsanitary condition."
Kenneally's hearing is set for August. His medical license has twice been temporarily suspended based on convictions for Medi-Cal fraud in 1979 and federal narcotics record-keeping violations in 1975.
Kenneally and Cannon did not return phone calls. Their attorneys either declined to comment or did not return calls. A representative of Family Planning Associates declined to be interviewed.
Administrative Law Judge Richard J. Lopez ruled that Cannon had numerous opportunities to prevent Heim's death, which occurred after the doctor failed to take standard precautions in anesthetizing Heim, who was asthmatic. Cannon was further faulted for failing to respond appropriately to the "major respiratory catastrophe" that developed during her surgery. For example, the judge determined that instead of treating Heim's breathing distress, Cannon chose to complete the abortion.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Linda Vogel, who presented the case against Cannon, said the doctor failed to follow "basic, standard practices" in medicine. "There's nothing esoteric here," she said. "What he failed to do are things that are learned in the first year of medical school."
The judge found that Cannon in many cases did not do physical examinations, take medical histories or administer standard tests before operating on patients.
In one case, the doctor performed an abortion on a woman and sent her home despite severe bleeding. She later went to a hospital emergency room in acute distress. When Cannon was called by the hospital, he said the patient probably should be sent home and should come in for an office visit in a week or two. Disregarding his advice, the hospital doctors admitted the woman and performed emergency surgery, which revealed a perforated uterus and hemorrhage that necessitated a hysterectomy.