Baby decapitated during delivery; hospital tried to conceal manner of death: lawsuit

ByNick Valencia, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, August 10, 2023
Baby decapitated during delivery, mother alleges in lawsuit
In a Southern Regional Medical Center lawsuit, Jessica Ross alleges a botched delivery left her baby decapitated during childbirth.

ATLANTA -- A mother who alleges her baby was decapitated during delivery at a Georgia hospital last month filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the hospital and others involved in the delivery, according to legal filings.

The complaint filed in Georgia's Clayton County alleges the Southern Regional Medical Center attempted to conceal the manner of death of the baby from the family including the mother, 20-year-old Jessica Ross, and her boyfriend, Treveon Isaiah Taylor Sr.

The medical center is in Riverdale, some 13 miles south of downtown Atlanta. The baby, who was named after his father, was delivered at full term, according to the family attorney.

The county medical examiner's office has not released the cause of the baby's death. The office still is working to complete the baby's autopsy, the office's director, Brian Byers, told CNN.

According to the lawsuit, Ross went into labor on July 9, and her doctor, "attempted to deliver the baby vaginally using different methods including applying traction to the baby's head."

During the attempted delivery, "the baby did not properly descend due to shoulder dystocia," a condition when a baby's shoulders become stuck in the vaginal canal, the lawsuit says.

The physician "failed to practice according to medical standards," the complaint reads. The complaint says the doctor "grossly" and "negligently applied excessive traction" on the head and neck of the baby and "failed to do a Cesarean section in a timely and proper manner, resulting in Treveon Isaiah Taylor Jr.'s decapitation and death."

In a statement to CNN on Wednesday afternoon, Southern Regional Medical Center said it "denies the allegations in the complaint referencing the hospital."

According to a statement from the family's spokesperson, when Ross and Taylor "demanded to see and hold their baby, hospital staff told them that they were not allowed to touch or hold their child."

"Hospital staff allowed the young couple to only view their dead child," the statement from the family's spokesperson reads.

"During this viewing, their baby was wrapped tightly in a blanket with his head propped on top of his body in a manner such that those viewing him could not identify that he had been decapitated," according to the statement.

The Southern Regional Medical Center said it was "unable to discuss the care and treatment of specific patients" due to patient privacy laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA

"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the family and all those impacted by this tragic event," the medical center's statement reads. "Our prayers also remain with the dedicated team of physicians, nurses and staff at Southern Regional Medical Center who cared for this patient. Our commitment is to provide compassionate, quality care to every single patient, and this loss is heartbreaking."

"Since this matter is in litigation, we are refrained from providing any additional information," the statement reads.

The physician involved in the delivery is not an employee of the hospital, the statement reads. "The hospital has taken the appropriate steps in response to this unfortunate situation," the statement reads.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, negligence by the defendants, who include the medical center and the physician, Dr. Tracey St. Julian. CNN's attempts to reach St. Julian at her private practice were unsuccessful.

The suit asks for a jury trial, and the plaintiffs are asking for monetary damages, including for the value of the baby's life such as loss of lifetime earnings and for funeral and burial costs.

The county medical examiner's office expects to have a statement about its findings Thursday, Byers said.

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