SANTA ANA — The man touted as the "bloodless surgeon" among Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious groups died of an apparent heart attack at a local hospital, relatives and friends said Monday. He was 53.
Ron Lapin, a surgeon who introduced an operating procedure that does not require blood transfusions, suffered a heart attack at his Lemon Heights home Friday evening, just hours after he had asked his 42-year-old fiancee to marry him.
He died between 1 and 2 a.m. at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, said Lapin's fiancee, Deeanne Cassidy.
"We were making wedding plans, not funeral plans," she said. "I'm still very shocked over it. All I can say is that he was the most wonderful, knowledgeable humanitarian to have come around in a long time."
Lapin, a Tel Aviv-born physician who was working at Coast Plaza Doctors Hospital in Norwalk, had battled colleagues and blood-bank industry officials who questioned the appropriateness of his operating method, which was introduced in the 1970s.
The procedure was intended to prevent excessive bleeding through the use of an electric cautery at the end of each blood vessel as tissues were sliced. It also involved liberal doses of folic acid and Vitamin B-12 to lower blood pressure.
Artificial blood known as blood volume expanders also were used, Lapin said in earlier interviews with The Times.
Lapin's medical practices led to a five-year investigation by state medical authorities, who dropped it in 1986, citing an inability to prove their case against him.
He also gained notice when his third wife was charged with two counts of felony kidnaping in 1987 when she failed to return the couple's two children to their father's house after a visit.
Orly Lapin, a former Israeli beauty queen, then accused him of molesting the couple's daughter and raping the child's nanny, according to court records at the time.
Neither husband nor wife was convicted, and the children remained in Ron Lapin's custody. He also had a third child by another wife.
Funeral arrangements are pending. An autopsy was performed but results were not available pending the outcome of toxicology tests.