TAMPA, Fla. — The Board of Medicine revoked the license of a Florida doctor accused of medical malpractice in a botched abortion case in which a live baby was delivered, but ended up dead in a cardboard box.
The board on Friday found Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique in violation of Florida statutes by committing medical malpractice, delegating responsibility to unlicensed personnel, and failing to keep an accurate medical record. Renelique and his attorney declined to comment after the hearing.
The Department of Health said Renelique was scheduled to perform an abortion on a teenager who was 23 weeks pregnant in 2006. Sycloria Williams had been given drugs in advance to dilate her cervix.
According to the complaint, she gave birth at a Hialeah clinic after waiting hours for Renelique to arrive. The complaint said one of the clinic owners put the baby in a bag that was thrown away.
Police found the infant's decomposing remains a week later.
A medical examiner determined the cause of death was extreme prematurity, the complaint states.
At Friday's hearing, Renelique told the board of his life-long quest to be a doctor. He said there are generations of physicians in his family, and that he decided to follow the same path after seeing his father treat patients.
Renelique described saving a woman's life during the second year of his medical residency in Haiti. He later left his home country to work and train in the United States. It was never his intention to do abortions, he said.
"That was not part of my goals when I came to Florida," he said. "But I had to do it to survive."
Though the proceeding was solely to determine whether Renelique should be disciplined, the physician revealed more details about what happened on the summer day when Williams came in for an abortion.
Renelique said he met the patient a day before the procedure.
According to the Department of Health, Renelique gave Williams laminaria, a drug that dilates the cervix. He said he told her to come in the next day at 10 a.m. “for safety,” and planned to later examine her before the abortion.
Renelique said that as he was en route to the clinic, he was called to treat another patient who was bleeding.
When he arrived to treat Williams, she was bleeding, but no one told him she’d already delivered, Renelique said. He began the procedure, and realized there was no fetus. A sonogram detected nothing.
“That’s when one of the employees came to me and said, ’Dr. Renelique, what are you looking for?” he recalled. “I said, ’I’m looking for a fetus.’ And she said, ’What fetus?”’
The employee then told him that Williams had already delivered.
In a lawsuit, Williams says that Belkis Gonzalez, one of the clinic owners, had knocked the infant off the chair where she had given birth, scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag, and threw it out.
A metal rod
During the board's questioning, Dr. Elizabeth D. Tucker, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Pensacola, asked Renelique about three different types of medical forceps. Renelique replied that he possessed each of the instruments.
After each question, Tucker also held up a metal instrument, different from the one she had named and inquired about. One of the tools was a metal rod with an arrow attached at the tip.
Tucker asked Renelique if he had that. He replied that he did.
"For the record, these are from my antique collection," she said later. "We don't use these in terminations."
Renelique's attorney, Joseph Harrison, later requested that his client view the instruments more closely, which the board allowed. Renelique said he had never seen or used the spear in his life.
Harrison said Renelique expected the board to uphold the current restriction on his license, which prohibits him from performing abortions unless another physician is present. The Department of Health recommended that his license be suspended. But the board decided to revoke it instead which means he will not be able to practice medicine in Florida.
Dr. Jason Rosenberg, a board member, said Renelique showed callous disregard toward Williams.
“You acted as though you had no interest in treating this patient,” he said.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is investigating. On Friday, several Republican legislators called on the office to prosecute the person responsible for the baby’s death.
“These events are nothing short of murder,” state Rep. Anitere Flores of Miami said in a statement. “It is our duty to call for immediate charges to be filed to ensure that no other young women become victims of this clinic.”
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