Complaint Alleges OB/GYN Decapitated Baby During Botched Delivery and Covered It Up
News: A complaint against an OB/GYN and other medical professionals involved in the botched delivery of a baby makes the shocking allegation an infant was decapitated during the complicated delivery. The plaintiff alleged complications arose during labor when the baby experienced shoulder dystocia. She claimed that despite clear signs of fetal distress, the medical team delayed emergency interventions, and that by the time a cesarean delivery was performed late that night, the baby was tragically decapitated, with the head delivered vaginally. The complaint also alleged the family was not informed of the decapitation until days later, after the patient was discharged. It also alleged the medical team discouraged the patient from seeking an autopsy, pushing instead for cremation. The plaintiff seeks damages on her own behalf and on behalf of the estate of the deceased minor.
Background: On July 9, 2023, the patient’s amniotic membrane ruptured, prompting her to rush to the ED. Labor was induced two hours later, and she was fully dilated by evening. Despite the dilation, the baby faced a complication known as shoulder dystocia, preventing a smooth descent. The patient endured nearly three hours of unsuccessful pushing. The attending physician tried various methods to deliver the child vaginally, even applying significant traction to the baby’s head.
The patient alleged the medical team did not seem to respond with urgency, and there is no record of activating any emergency obstetrical protocol promptly after the recognition of the dystocia. The patient claimed that throughout a significant portion of this ordeal, she was not positioned optimally, known as McRoberts positioning, to assist with the delivery. She claimed that despite the clear complications, no medical professional advocated for an emergency cesarean delivery until late that evening.
The complaint stated the fetal monitor showed consistent signs of distress, including displaying Category 3 strips with consistent late decelerations until 10:36 p.m., after which there was a worrying 10-minute period of profound bradycardia. It alleged that following this, there were no detectable fetal heart tones.
The complaint also noted the attending physician performed a cesarean delivery as a last-ditch effort, but the child was tragically decapitated. Only the baby’s legs and body were delivered via the cesarean section, with the head delivered vaginally. The full weight of the baby was recorded at 7 lbs. 6 oz.
The patient alleged the procedures were completed in the early morning hours of the following day, but when the physician informed the patient and her family about their child’s death, the details of the decapitation were omitted. She claimed hospital-affiliated health professionals discouraged the family from pursuing an autopsy, recommending cremation instead. The complaint claimed the family was not informed of the horrific details of their son’s death until several days later, after the patient was discharged.
The patient alleged the physician and medical team were grossly negligent in their treatment of the patient and her baby. She also accused the hospital and its nursing staff of not adhering to standard medical and nursing practices. The physician is further accused of intentionally withholding the truth about the nature of the baby’s death, causing severe emotional distress. It claimed the hospital then discouraged the parents from obtaining an independent autopsy and suggested cremation before autopsy, supposedly to destroy evidence. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for the baby’s wrongful death, his pain and suffering, and the patient’s emotional and physical trauma.
The Likely Key Issues: The issue of gross medical negligence by the medical team will be at the forefront of the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged the attending physician and the medical team were “grossly negligent” in their treatment of the patient and her baby. Gross negligence implies a serious departure from the accepted standard of care, displaying a reckless disregard for the safety of others. The plaintiff will have to prove the medical team’s actions were not just negligent, but met this even higher threshold of gross negligence.
Another key issue will be the timing of the medical team’s response. The complaint alleged the medical team was delayed in responding to the patient’s complications, despite clear signs of fetal distress. This is one of the main themes of the plaintiff’s complaint. It is likely her attorneys will establish a detailed timeline of events, from the moment of admission to the cesarean delivery, to show that necessary emergency treatment was unreasonably delayed until it was too late.
Also of note is whether the physician and staff failed to use standard medical procedures. Medical malpractice claims revolve around what is considered the standard of care in a given situation. The complaint alleged significant deviations from these standards, such as the failure to promptly activate an emergency obstetrical protocol and not positioning the patient optimally during a known complication.
The accuracy, reliability, and interpretation of the fetal monitor readings will be another legal issue. The complaint referred to Category 3 strips with late decelerations and a 10-minute period of profound bradycardia, indicating fetal distress. Expert witnesses will likely testify about these readings and their implications for how the medical team should have responded.
One of the most emotionally charged allegations in the complaint is the claim the medical team did not inform the family about the baby’s decapitation immediately — and, in fact, attempted to hide it by recommending cremation immediately. If true, this conduct potentially infringes on the family’s right to informed consent and their right to knowledge about medical procedures and outcomes. The recommendation for cremation also could be used to introduce questions about the medical team’s motivations, their knowledge of their fault, and whether they engaged a conscious effort to hide or obfuscate the truth from the family.
The plaintiff alleged that by withholding the nature of the baby’s death, the physician intentionally caused severe emotional distress in the family. This will require proving not just that distress occurred, but that it was caused intentionally by the actions (or inactions) of the medical professionals. Typically, intentional infliction of emotional distress is a difficult showing for a plaintiff. However, given the allegations in this case, the plaintiff may be able to meet that burden.
Quantifying damages in such emotionally charged and tragic cases is a complex issue. The plaintiffs seek damages for the baby’s wrongful death, his pain and suffering, and the mother’s emotional and physical trauma. Establishing the extent of these damages and linking them directly to the actions of the defendants will be central to the case and a focus of the patient’s attorneys from the outset.
Hospitals can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. The complaint implicates the hospital and its nursing staff in not adhering to standard medical and nursing practices. The extent to which the hospital itself is responsible vs. individual practitioners, will be a key legal consideration. Given the potential amount of damages at stake, the plaintiff’s attorneys will aggressively seek to show the hospital is vicariously liable for the botched procedure.
Unfortunately, decapitation during delivery is not unheard of. It can occur if the physician applies excessive pressure on the infant’s head with a vacuum, or even manually when trying to deliver a shoulder dystocia case. There are established protocols through the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that physicians and nurses should know if they have been appropriately vetted by the medical facility where they practice. Prenatal follow-up often can predict the possibility of a dystocia occurrence, which allows the team time to move equipment in place well before the dystocia occurs. But staff of every delivery department is trained to respond appropriately, regardless of whether dystocia was anticipated.
The disturbing outcome in this case indicates the department was completely unprepared for this event. It may have been an issue of staffing, late-night availability of support staff or physicians, or myriad other factors. No excuse can be made to justify the lack of care. States are required to report adverse events such as this to the state and federal departments of health, which will ultimately require a full retraining of both staff and physicians, regardless of the outcome. There must be assurances this will not happen again.
Although the lawsuit from this botched delivery was filed recently, there likely are many legal issues that must be resolved before this case goes to a jury, or before a jury can reach a verdict — that is, if this case ever goes that far. In some cases of gross medical negligence, the defendants have a strong incentive to settle.
- Complaint filed Aug. 7, 2023, in the State Court of Clayton County, Georgia, Case Number No. 2023CV02077.
The issue of gross medical negligence by the medical team will be at the forefront of the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged the attending physician and the medical team were “grossly negligent” in their treatment of the patient and her baby.
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