Baby's death ruled homicide after suffering broken neck during delivery at Georgia hospital

ByMaxime Tamsett, Isabel Rosales and Emma Tucker, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, February 7, 2024
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.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. -- A medical examiner on Tuesday released the manner of death for a baby whose mother accused a Georgia hospital and others of decapitating during delivery, ruling it a homicide.

The Clayton County, Georgia Medical Examiner's office said the baby died from a broken neck and the baby's head was detached, according to a news release shared with CNN.

The 20-year-old mother, Jessica Ross, filed a lawsuit in August alleging the Southern Regional Medical Center attempted to conceal the manner of death of the baby, Treveon Isaiah Taylor Jr., from her and her boyfriend, Trevon Isaiah Taylor Sr., along with the whole family.

The medical examiner's office said Ross's baby died from "fracture-dislocation with complete transection, upper cervical (C1-C2) spine and spinal cord," due to "shoulder dystocia, arrest of labor, and fetal entrapment in the birth canal," according to the news release.

The medical examiner said pregnancy-induced diabetes and premature rupture of membranes were also significant conditions contributing to Taylor's death.

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.

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

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.

Ross says the doctor "grossly" and "negligently applied excessive traction" on her baby's head and neck, the complaint says. The doctor is also accused of failing to do a Caesarean section "in a timely and proper manner," which resulted in the baby's decapitation and death, according to the lawsuit. The Caesarean section was completed at about 3 a.m. on July 10, the filing said.

In a statement issued to CNN after the medical examiner's announcement, a spokesperson for Southern Regional Medical Center said: "Due to current litigation, we are unable to comment."

In August, after Ross filed the lawsuit, the hospital said in a statement it "denies the allegations in the complaint referencing the hospital."

The family's spokesperson has said that 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."

"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."

The workers only allowed the couple to see their dead child's body, the family's spokesperson said.

"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," the statement said.

"I have never witnessed anything like this before. No one in our office has seen anything like this. Everyone we have consulted has never seen a situation like this before," Clayton County Medical Examiner's Director Brian Byars told CNN on Tuesday. "I find it very unusual that the hospital didn't contact our office due to the amount of trauma that was involved in this incident."

The case is still under investigation by the Clayton County Police Department and could be referred to the District Attorney's office, the release said.

Ross and her boyfriend are expected to give a public press conference in Atlanta on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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