Medical Examiner Says Baby Decapitated During Delivery Died By Homicide
A medical examiner’s office on Tuesday said that homicide was the manner of death for a Georgia baby who was decapitated during delivery, months after the boy’s parents claimed in a lawsuit that their hospital and doctor tried to cover up what happened.
Jessica Ross and boyfriend Treveon Isaiah Taylor filed the suit in August against Dr. Tracey St. Julian, the OB-GYN who delivered their baby in July at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale. The parents accused her of failing to follow proper protocol during childbirth, saying that this resulted in the death of their baby.
In a press release shared with HuffPost, the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s Office said it determined that the baby’s death was a homicide, though the office did not accuse St. Julian of intentionally killing the baby. The baby’s head was severed in part due to shoulder dystocia, the release stated.
The medical examiner’s office added that pregnancy-induced diabetes and premature rupture of membranes were other significant conditions that contributed to the baby’s death.
The office said that its findings are for death investigation purposes only and police are still looking into the case. No criminal charges have been filed.
In a Wednesday statement to HuffPost, attorneys representing St. Julian claimed that the baby’s decapitation happened after he died, adding that an autopsy performed by state investigators “did not classify a manner of death and stated that there was no sign of life upon delivery.”
“Dr. St. Julian was faced with a dire obstetrical emergency where the mother’s life was in peril as well as the baby’s,” the doctor’s attorneys stated. “Once it became clear that the baby did not survive the underlying severe shoulder dystocia (an unpreventable and unpredictable complication of delivery), the priority shifted to saving the mother’s life, which was thankfully accomplished.”
The couple’s lawsuit details Ross’ experience on July 9, when she was admitted to Southern Regional Medical Center after her water broke. According to the suit, Ross attempted for three hours to push out her baby without success.
The lawsuit accuses St. Julian of not taking proper action to reposition the baby when he became stuck in the vaginal canal and says she applied excessive force during the attempted delivery.
The excessive force severed the baby’s head from the rest of his body, the lawsuit alleges, and it was only then that St. Julian decided to deliver the baby by cesarean section.
The baby’s legs and torso were delivered via C-section, while his head was delivered vaginally, according to the lawsuit.
In a statement released in August, a spokesperson for the family’s attorney said that hospital staff members prevented the parents from touching or holding the deceased baby’s body, and attempted to cover up the fact that his head had been severed.
The family’s attorney, Dr. Roderick Edmond, said during a press conference at the time that hospital staffers wrapped the baby tightly and propped his head on top of a blanket so that it would seem attached. According to the couple’s lawsuit, they only discovered that their son had been decapitated after being discharged from the hospital.
The lawsuit further alleges that the couple’s medical care providers “encouraged” them to cremate their baby instead of getting an autopsy.
In a response to the lawsuit, St. Julian’s attorneys said that the doctor at “all times met the standard of care” to resolve the obstetric emergency. Her attorneys said that the doctor had implemented “numerous maneuvers” to push the baby’s head back into the birth canal, but that the baby’s shoulder remained stuck.
The doctors’ lawyers also said it was “salaciously false” that St. Julian had pulled so hard that the baby’s head separated from his torso.
“The trauma to the body and head of the fetus occurred post-mortem while Dr. St. Julian was still attempting to deliver the fetus by cesarean and save Ms. Ross’s life,” they wrote. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false and is meant to sensationalize this tragedy and to mislead the public and potential jurors about what actually occurred.”
The doctor never attempted to hide or “cover up” the baby’s decapitation from Ross or her boyfriend, her lawyers said. St. Julian’s attorneys also said that the doctor attempted to meet with the family soon after the delivery but was “forbidden” to talk with Ross by her family members.