Lake Success doctor sentenced in botched abortion case

Janelle Clausen

A Queens doctor from Lake Success was sentenced on Tuesday to 16 months to four years in prison for a botched abortion that took the life of a 30-year-old woman, after averting a manslaughter charge that carried a longer sentence through a plea deal.

Prosecutors had said that the doctor, Robert Rho, now 55, lacerated the victim’s cervix, pierced her uterine wall and severed the uterine artery during the abortion procedure, leading to intense internal bleeding. Rho then performed a second surgery to try fixing the damage, according to prosecutors, but didn’t know she needed emergency care.

The patient, Jamie Lee Morales, had been six months pregnant and was allowed to leave Liberty Women’s Health of Queens, where Rho had his practice, prosecutors also said.

“This was a very sad case. A 30-year-old woman, who had recently graduated from college and had her whole life ahead of her, died as a result of this botched procedure,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The doctor has accepted responsibility and admitted his failure to provide adequate care following surgery.

“The defendant has now been sentenced to prison as a result of his inaction.”

Jeffrey Lichtman, Rho’s defense attorney, previously said the jury seemed “quick to convict” his client. But, Lichtman said, Rho was not given a full medical history from Morales, including a low platelet count that could contribute to excessive bleeding.

Rho originally faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter. The deal to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide came only “moments before a jury reached a verdict in his four-week-long trial,” prosecutors previously said.

“This was really the best result and it was really a lucky break that there was a very short window in which the jury was deadlocked for us to finally have leverage in this case,” Lichtman said in May, “and the window shut quickly, as we learned.”

Rho’s case is only the second criminal prosecution in New York for a mishandled abortion. The first was in 1995, when a Queens doctor was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Guadalupe Negron, 33, who sought a second-trimester abortion.

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