The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
April 10, 2001

Woman circumcised by ex-husband awarded $35,000

Advocate staff writer

A judge awarded $35,000 Monday to a woman who claimed her former husband conspired 29 years ago to circumcise her without her consent.

In the same ruling, Judge Pro Tempore John Perry Jr. assessed the woman, Mary Ann Turner, the costs of a 1996 mistrial in the case. Perry didn't say how much that would be.

He also said the inadmissibility of a piece of evidence forced him to conclude Turner didn't have knowledge of the surgical procedure.

Turner sued her former husband, local anesthesiologist Dr. Alan Ostrowe, claiming he conspired with the late Dr. Anthony Leggio to remove the skin covering her clitoris during other routine surgery at Woman's Hospital in 1972.

She said she didn't find out about the procedure until 1988, when another physician who was at the operation told her about it.

Ostrowe contended his wife agreed to the operation as a possible way to overcome problems she was having with intercourse.

He claimed she filed suit only after he threatened to cut off alimony payments.

In 1996, the case went to trial before a jury.

A judge halted the trial after Turner testified that a doctor who assisted in the surgery told her that Ostrowe kept her knocked out following the procedure because Ostrowe "had places to go, people to be with" and didn't want her to know.

State District Judge Bob Downing said the testimony bordered on revealing accusations of adultery that both sides had ruled off limits before the trial began. Downing declared a mistrial, saying he wasn't going to have "a National Enquirer trial."

The case was tried again this year solely before a judge.

In his ruling, Perry said the case boiled down to one issue -- whether Ostrowe participated in a scheme to have an unauthorized surgical procedure performed on his wife without her consent, or whether Turner was a knowing and willing participant.

Perry said he found it "difficult to imagine someone in her situation, immediately following the birth of her third child, in her early 30s, would have ever consented to such a bizarre procedure."

He also said a doctor's handwritten notes of a telephone conversation with another doctor who treated Turner indicate she didn't learn about the procedure for the first time in 1988.

However, those notes are inadmissible because of hearsay rules, Perry said. Hearsay is evidence that is based on what another person has told a witness.

Witnesses testified that Turner "was stunned and extremely upset when she allegedly learned for the first time in 1988 what occurred," Perry wrote.

Experts testified that Turner's hospital record showed she was given high doses of medication, Perry said. They also testified that the consent form was suspect, he said in his ruling.

The ruling concludes by saying some people might feel a higher award is justifiable under the circumstances. But he added that he is concerned about the implications of the couple's divorce and Turner's motives in the case.

"It is time to conclude this matter and allow these parties to reconstruct their lives in a productive way without being burdened further with this litigation," he said.

Attorneys for Turner and Ostrowe couldn't be reached for comment late Monday.

[CIRP Note: See also Doctor Testifies Surgeon Secretly Circumcised Woman (1996).]

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(File revised 12 April 2001)

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