An abortion practitioner with a history of malpractice was charged with murder after state regulators determined that he punctured a woman’s uterus during an abortion.
Prosecutors and investigators said it was the first time in recent memory that an investigation by the state Medical Board led to murder charges against a doctor.
Dr. Bruce Saul Steir, 66, was arrested at his home in San Francisco on Wednesday and was being held on $250,000 bail. If convicted, he could face 15 years to life in prison.
Sharon Hamptlon, 27, of Barstow bled to death shortly after Steir performed the legal abortion on Dec. 13. The San Bernardino County coroner’s office concluded Hamptlon died of gross negligence on the part of the abortion practicioner and her death was ruled a homicide.
The medical board had already put Steir on probation for other abortion-related problems when Hamptlon died. He surrendered his license three months later. Steir showed “a conscious and willful disregard of a life-threatening condition,” said Dr. Eugene Albright, one of the board’s reviewing surgeons.
Steir claimed he did not know he perforated Hamptlon’s uterus and would have hospitalized her had he realized the error. A criminal investigation showed Steir knew he made a mistake and failed to follow up with proper medical procedures, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Kennis Clark said.
Prosecutors said Steir returned to his home 40 minutes before Hamptlon was discharged from the clinic in Moreno Park, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.
Earlier complaints against him included several cases of women whose uteruses were perforated, alleged negligence and incompetence and breaking military prohibitions against moonlighting while practicing for the Navy.
Steir was put on probation several times and at the time of Hamptlon’s death was required to show authorities he was being supervised by a physician monitor.