Wichita A Kansas doctor who provided second opinions for a late-term abortion provider who was gunned down last year could face disciplinary action from a state medical regulatory board.
Dr. Ann Neuhaus provided the second opinions for Dr. George Tiller that are required under Kansas law for any abortion performed after the 21st week of pregnancy when a fetus is viable, or can survive outside the womb. Neuhaus also at one time operated a clinic in Lawrence.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts filed an 11-count disciplinary complaint against Neuhaus over some of her second opinions, alleging the Nortonville woman failed to properly evaluate whether an abortion of a viable fetus was necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother — as required by Kansas law.
The petition, signed April 16, was made public Tuesday by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which had filed the initial complaint to the board against Tiller and Neuhaus. The complaint against Tiller was dismissed after he was killed at his Wichita church in May 2009.
An evidentiary hearing on the petition is set for Jan. 11. The hearing officer then will make recommendations to the board on how Neuhaus should be disciplined. Disciplinary action could range from fines to license restrictions to suspension or revocation of her medical license, said board spokeswoman Lisa Corwin.
“Anytime you get abortion as an issue, you are dealing with a highly emotional subject anyway,” Corwin said, noting that the board has found an independent hearing officer to hear the evidence.
The 30-page petition against Neuhaus takes issue with the medical care of 11 patients whose ages ranged from 10 to 18. All of the abortions cited involved fetuses with gestational ages of 25 to 29 weeks in 2003.
The petition alleges she failed to do adequate patient interviews, failed to perform adequate reviews of patients’ history, failed to perform adequate evaluations of the impact of the patient’s condition and failed to perform adequate mental status examinations.
“We have a job to do to make sure we are protecting the public and make sure people are following protocol, and that is first and foremost,” Corwin said.
Neuhaus could not be immediately reached for comment. It was unclear whether she had retained an attorney for the medical disciplinary action; the board did not have one listed for her. An attorney she had retained in the past, Jack Focht, said he was unaware of the board’s proceedings. Her father, Wichita attorney Warner Eisenbise, also said he did not know about the board’s actions.
Operation Rescue said the petition demonstrates the system works, even if it takes a long time.
“We have been criticized a lot for our attempts to bring Tiller and the people that he worked with to justice and I feel like this vindicates our efforts to do that,” said Cheryl Sullenger, policy adviser for Operation Rescue.
Tiller was acquitted in March 2009 by a Sedgwick County jury of 19 misdemeanor charges filed by the Kansas attorney general’s office alleging he had received second opinions in 2003 from a doctor who was essentially an employee of his — not independent, as state law requires. Neuhaus was the prosecution’s only witness.
Neuhaus told jurors Tiller’s patients paid her a cash consultation fee of $250 to $300.
Prosecutors claimed Neuhaus’ only income at the time came from patients she saw at Tiller’s clinic. The defense argued she came to his clinic for the convenience and safety of patients, pointing out she paid for her own expenses, such as malpractice insurance and travel costs.
Tiller testified that Neuhaus would disagree with him about the necessity of a late-term abortion in about five cases each year.
Board records show Neuhaus was disciplined by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in 1999 and 2001. She is practicing under a limited license following earlier disciplinary action over her medical practices regarding informed consent, sedation and patient monitoring.
Neuhaus operated an abortion clinic from 1997 to 2002 at 205 W. Eighth St. in Lawrence.
Neuhaus said she had to close the clinic because of debt incurred from several weeks of inactivity in 2001 after the Kansas Board of Healing Arts began investigating an allegation that Neuhaus performed an abortion on a patient who had withdrawn consent. The charge was never substantiated.