The clock was ticking. Suzanne Matteo was thirty-seven years old and she wanted to have a baby. An obstetrician/gynecologist herself, she knew that, biologically, time was running out. Ironically, she and her husband Tony, also an OB/GYN, had delivered thousands of babies for other women but were having no luck of their own. So they sought the help of a world-renowned fertility doctor, Jerome Check, M.D., and decided to go ahead with in-vitro fertilization. The procedure, considered radical when introduced in 1978, had become routine and now helped millions of women have babies.
But along the way, things went wrong for Suzanne—terribly wrong. After an egg retrieval procedure she developed a slow, and at first imperceptible, bleed from her ovaries. With Tony at his hospital doing rounds and Check not responding to a nurse’s calls, Suzanne’s condition worsened. By the time Tony returned, she was unconscious and her belly distended, filled with blood. Tony acted. With the help of several nurses and staffers at Check’s office, he carried his wife to his car and sped off to his own hospital. He rushed Suzanne to the operating room and performed surgery on his own wife, hoping that he could save her life.
Years later, the matter would end up in court, with Check facing a civil lawsuit for malpractice. Check, in turn, would go to the authorities claiming that it was Tony, not him, who was responsible for the harm done to Suzanne, and that it was intentional. Tony, he asserted, had tried to murder his wife. The district attorney, Bruce Castor, consulted with his top homicide detective before coming to a decision: “Let’s see what the outcome of the lawsuit is before we decide what we’re going to do.”
Dying to Have a Baby is the story of that lawsuit.
About the Author
Robert Zausner is the author of Two Boys: Divided by Fortune—United by Tragedy and Bad Brake: Ford Trucks—Deadly When Parked. He is a former journalist with United Press International and The Philadelphia Inquirer.