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Doctor’s License Is Suspended for 1 Year by Medical Board : Abortion: A women’s group says the penalty is too lenient for physician charged with incompetence in two deaths.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Medical Board of California ordered a one-year license suspension for a Los Angeles doctor accused of gross negligence and incompetence in the deaths of two young women who underwent abortions at his clinics.

The board also placed Dr. Leo F. Kenneally on 10 years’ probation, following the recommendation of a Los Angeles administrative law judge who reviewed the case.

But the disciplinary action fell far short of the license revocation originally sought by state authorities, and drew immediate criticism from a group that works on behalf of women who are victims of medical malpractice.

In the ruling issued last week, medical board members agreed with Administrative Law Judge Milford A. Maron in suspending Kenneally for a year--and allowing him to continue providing medical services at his clinics in Central Los Angeles and Pacoima until Sept. 9, when the sanction goes into effect.

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Members of the medical board and Kenneally could not be reached for comment Sunday. But the doctor’s attorney, Jay N. Hartz, called the board’s decision a “significant victory.”

“The decision acknowledges that Dr. Kenneally is an extremely valuable asset to this community,” Hartz said in a prepared statement.

According to the complaint filed by the state attorney general’s office, Kenneally failed to properly care for a 22-year-old asthmatic woman who suffered a seizure during an abortion in 1986. Instead of “appropriately managing her life-threatening emergency,” Kenneally continued to perform the abortion, the complaint alleged.

The woman was later transported to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

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The complaint also alleged that the doctor failed to quickly call paramedics when an 18-year-old woman stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest while undergoing an abortion in 1987. The woman was admitted to a hospital, where she died 58 days later.

The attorney general’s office also accused Kenneally of mishandling five other abortions that resulted in injuries between 1988 and 1993.

In his May 27 ruling, Maron agreed that Kenneally was negligent in the deaths of the two women. But the administrative judge stated that there were mitigating factors that warranted not permanently revoking the license of the doctor, who operates Her Medical Clinics at 2700 S. Figueroa St. and at 13309 Van Nuys Blvd.

One mitigating factor, Maron stated, was that Kenneally provides affordable abortions in poor neighborhoods underserved by the medical community.

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“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that (Kenneally) is an unselfish and committed provider,” Maron wrote. “There is presently an enormous need for his services in the communities which he serves, where he is the ‘price floor’ for elective abortions.

“His absence would make it much more difficult for disadvantaged women to obtain such services.”

The judge also said the doctor has performed about 100,000 abortions over the past 10 years and is viewed by his professional colleagues as a “skilled and innovative provider.”

But the ruling was condemned Sunday by the leader of the Los-Angeles based Women’s Advocate group, which is active in medical issues.

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“The (board’s) decision makes absolutely no sense, except that you can conclude the medical board does not care about consumer protection,” Director Jeannette Dreisbach said. “The scales of justice are very, very unbalanced here.”


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