A Georgia couple have filed a lawsuit after they said their baby was decapitated during delivery, which the hospital and doctor then allegedly covered up.
Jessica Ross, 20, and her longtime boyfriend, Treveon Isaiah Taylor, were excited for the birth of their first child, a boy whom they were going to name Treveon Isaiah Taylor Jr., their attorney Cory Lynch said at a news conference on Wednesday.
According to Lynch, the two were regularly seeing Dr. Tracey L. St. Julian at Premier Woman OB-GYN, who then performed the delivery at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, Georgia, south of Atlanta. The lawsuit accuses St. Julian of failing to follow emergency obstetrical protocols when the baby’s shoulder became stuck during an attempted vaginal delivery; instead, she allegedly applied excessive force that killed the baby as his head was severed from his body.
The doctor, hospital and unnamed staff are accused of then attempting to hide what had happened by not immediately allowing the couple to see their child’s body.
“Unfortunately their dreams and hopes turned into a nightmare that was covered up by Southern Regional Medical Center,” Lynch said.
According to the lawsuit, Ross was admitted into the emergency room on July 9 after her water broke about 10 a.m., and she was fully dilated by 8:40 p.m.
During labor, the baby became stuck in the vaginal canal, prompting Ross to push for three hours without delivery, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses St. Julian of not taking proper actions to reposition the baby nor taking action as the baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate dipped. Eventually, the baby’s head was decapitated from his torso, and St. Julian only then made the decision to conduct a C-section, according to the lawsuit.
The baby’s legs and torso were delivered through the C-section; however, his head was delivered vaginally, according to the lawsuit.
Attorneys told reporters on Wednesday that hospital staff wrapped the child’s body tightly in a blanket and only allowed the parents to see it behind glass.
“In an attempt to basically misrepresent and miscommunicate to the family, when they wrapped this baby up tightly, they propped the baby’s head up on top of the blanket to make it appear it was attached when it wasn’t,” Dr. Roderick Edmond, who is also representing the family, said at the news conference.
In the following days, the medical care providers “discouraged” the couple from getting an autopsy and instead “encouraged” them to cremate their son’s remains, the lawsuit said.
Lynch told reporters that the hospital and staff did not report the death to Clayton County police, though the funeral home did.
The couple were finally told about their son’s decapitation on July 13 by St. Julian, after Ross was discharged from the hospital, according to the lawsuit.
“They did everything in their power to not let the family know what actually happened on that day, and it’s unfortunate,” Lynch said.
The Clayton County Police Department confirmed on social media that it has opened an investigation into the hospital’s failure to report the infant’s death.
The lawsuit seeks damages for negligence, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“[Ross] was awake and aware when it was clear that her child’s life was in danger due to shoulder dystocia,” the lawsuit said. “She has been profoundly mentally and emotionally traumatized in knowing that her baby was battered during the attempted vaginal delivery and ultimately was decapitated.”
Edmond added that the incident represents a larger issue affecting Black mothers in the U.S., citing 2021 Blue Cross Blue Shield data on racial disparities in maternal health.
Blue Cross Blue Shield has described an “urgent maternal health crisis,” with Black women younger than 24 more likely to experience severe childbirth complications than white women older than 35. Ross’s doctor was also a Black woman.
HuffPost reached out to St. Julian requesting comment for this article but did not receive a reply as of late Thursday.
In a statement to HuffPost, a spokesperson for Southern Regional Medical Center said that St. Julian is not an employee of the hospital.
“In general, physicians are not employed by hospitals,” the spokesperson said. “They receive privileges to provide services, perform procedures and visit their patients at hospitals where they are privileged.”
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the family and all those impacted by this tragic event,” the statement added. “Our prayers also remain with the dedicated team of physicians, nurses and staff at Southern Regional Medical Center who cared for this patient.”
The hospital declined to provide other information, citing privacy laws, but said it was cooperating with all investigations. “The hospital voluntarily reported the death to the Clayton County Medical Examiner’s office and is cooperating with all investigations,” the statement said. “Since this matter is in litigation, we cannot provide additional statements.”