During the course of labor the obstetrician told mom that her baby needed to be turned because the baby was facing the wrong way. The doctor then applied forceps in order to assist the baby coming out of the birth canal.

Mom then alleges that she and her husband heard what clearly sounded like pottery cracking, but was in fact their baby's skull and spine fracturing.

After five days on life support, this newborn baby died.

Shortly after birth, their newborn baby was diagnosed with multiple skull fractures and a spinal fracture.

What's so tragic about this case in Texas is that when doctors apply forceps, they must know exactly the position of the baby's head in order to properly apply it.

Forceps come in two parts.

There is a right blade and a left blade. Depending upon which forceps is used, those blades are sometimes serrated...not for the purposes of cutting, but rather for the purposes of grasping.

If the forceps are not applied properly, and then the doctor applies traction to pull the baby out, one of the departures from good and accepted practice is applying forceps when the doctor did not know the correct positioning of the baby's head.

Also, forceps are to be used to guide the baby's head and shoulders out through the birth canal. It is not designed to tug and use excessive force that results in skull fractures or spinal fractures.

Not long ago, here in New York, I handled a case identical to the one described in this story coming out of Texas.

The parents were devastated.

They could not understand how this could occur. They were angry. They were upset.

The use of forceps is a tool to help obstetricians assist the baby being delivered through the vaginal canal.

The reality is that today's doctors have very little experience using forceps. 20-30 years ago, forceps was an obstetrical tool that was often used in young doctors in training were often trained by the senior doctors on how to use it properly.

In my discussions with many obstetricians, I have come to learn that the use of forceps is less favored today, certainly in New York, because of the inherent risks associated with applying forceps incorrectly.

There are alternatives to using forceps including using a vacuum extractor as well as the obvious alternative of performing a cesarean section.

In the case I handled for these devastated parents here in New York, each of the experts that reviewed this case confirmed that there were clear violations from the standard of good obstetrical care. Each one of my experts sympathized with both the parents who would never recover from this tragic loss as well as the obstetrician even though they clearly pointed to violations from the standard of good care.


Shortly after the parents were questioned at during their pretrial testimony also known as a deposition, I was able to successfully settle this case. I knew from discussions with my experts that the doctor would never come forward to give his explanations or reasons in sworn testimony. That was a significant incentive for the defense to settle this case.

What makes this even more tragic is that in New York when we try and evaluate the worth of a newborn baby, we run into many obstacles that truly prevent parents from getting true justice. These traumatized parents can never be made whole again and no amount of money is ever going to rebuild their lives and give them back what they once had.

Trying to compute a value with this type of case is heart wrenching especially when we have a sitdown with the parents and explain what damages are available in a death case involving a newborn.

My heart goes out to the Texas parents who went through this nightmare.

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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