OBITUARIES: Annelle Blanchard, 50, controversial obstetrician

Associated Press

Friday, February 9, 2001

A former New Orleans obstetrician whose Louisiana license was suspended in 1998 amid allegations of drug abuse and questionable medical practices has died of injuries suffered in a fire at her Florida apartment.

Annelle Blanchard, 50, reached the highest echelons of social and professional acclaim in the New Orleans area in the early 1990s. Her devoted patient base included other doctors, lawyers and local celebrities.

Her critics, however, accused Dr. Blanchard of duping terrified patients into expensive treatments to prevent early childbirth, even when there was no sign of risk. In some cases, they charged, Dr. Blanchard funneled the expectant mothers through a home health agency she partly owned. There were also allegations of drug abuse.

In 1994, East Jefferson General Hospital revoked Dr. Blanchard's right to practice after the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that 16 of 20 instances of a controversial surgical procedure, were unjustified. The panel also questioned ''what appeared to be a near universal use'' of the pump-administered muscle relaxants following surgery.

Dr. Blanchard sued, alleging sexual discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and anti-trust violations, but a judge granted summary judgment to the hospital and ordered her to pay attorney fees.

In 1996, she lost her privileges at Kenner Regional Medical Center. In 1998, the Louisiana Board of Medicine suspended her license. It offered no public reason at the time, but a complaint by Florida's Department of Health linked Louisiana's action to allegations of ''continuing and recurring excessive use and abuse of controlled substances, which renders her unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients.''

The Jan. 22 fire from which Dr. Blanchard died Saturday was in a tiny apartment in Fort Pierce on Florida's Atlantic coast.