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Southern California doctor ordered to stop performing abortions

Obstetrician-gynecologist Andrew Rutland keeps his medical license but faces a formal disciplinary hearing in the death of one of his patients. He also must stop delivering babies.

January 08, 2010|By Tony Perry

Reporting from San Diego — A judge Thursday ordered a Southern California obstetrician-gynecologist to immediately stop performing abortions and delivering babies until a formal disciplinary hearing can be held about the death of one of his patients during an abortion.

Administrative Law Judge James Ahler stopped short of granting a request by attorneys for the Medical Board of California to immediately suspend the license of Dr. Andrew Rutland, opting to temporarily limit his practice instead.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Douglas Lee, at a hearing in San Diego, had argued that Rutland "committed repeated negligent acts in his care and treatment" of a 30-year-old woman who came to a clinic in San Gabriel in August seeking an abortion.

The patient, Ying Chen, had a toxic reaction to a drug administered by Rutland, Lee said, and the doctor did not have the proper equipment or personnel in case of an emergency. In a written decision, Ahler said that Rutland's willingness to perform a second-trimester abortion in a facility inadequately equipped for emergencies "casts doubt on his professional judgment."

The judge said Rutland "presents a risk of danger and there is a likelihood of injury to the public" if he is allowed to continue deliveries or surgeries. He discounted the doctor's contention that he was not actually performing an abortion but merely preparing the patient for such a procedure in several days at a different facility. Ahler said that was contradicted by the doctor's earlier statements to a law enforcement investigator and a Medical Board consultant.

At the time of the death, Rutland was on five years' administrative probation stemming from another case in which he surrendered his license amid an investigation into the death of two infants shortly after delivery, according to state records. His license was later reinstated.

Rutland, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, has an office in Anaheim and has practiced at clinics in San Gabriel and Chula Vista. The Chula Vista clinic specialized in abortions.

Rutland is a graduate of the Howard University medical school and the University of West Los Angeles Law School, according to court documents.

Rutland's attorney, Peter Osinoff, told Ahler that suspending his client's license would be a "drastic and inappropriate" move and that the woman's death, while tragic, was not Rutland's fault. "It is not the kind of event [from which] you can conclude he's a danger to the public," he said.

But Lee said that Rutland had a pattern of dishonesty and corruption, and that when paramedics arrived at the San Gabriel clinic, they found no one attempting to help the patient, who spoke only Chinese.

Among other documents, the attorney general's office submitted a review by a professor at the UC San Diego medical school heavily criticizing Rutland. Ahler said the report by Dr. Jessica Kingston "was comprehensive and unbiased."

Osinoff asked Ahler to consider the 100 abortions that Rutland has done without complications in the last two years. At the formal disciplinary hearing, a full examination of the San Gabriel case will be done, with evidence submitted by both sides. The attorney general's office can seek revocation or suspension of Rutland's medical license.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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