A Texas couple blames a botched forceps delivery for their newborn daughter’s death a few days after her Dec. 28 birth. According to the parents, newborn Olivia Coats’ skull was crushed during her birth when the doctor struggled to deliver the baby using forceps. The family reportedly plans to sue their obstetrician, Dr. George T. Backardjiev, according to the National Monitor.
"We're not mad at the hospital, this is not their fault. It is one man's fault," Angie Coats, Olivia Coats’ grandmother, told ABC News. "We only want justice for Olivia; we want the person responsible, which is the doctor. We don't want the hospital being shunned."
Angie Coats told ABC News that her daughter-in-law had a “normal, healthy pregnancy,” but that the couple had requested a C-section delivery because of the baby’s size. Olivia weighed nearly 8 pounds and was 22 inches long at birth.
Backardjiev, however, refused to perform a C-section, telling the mother, 24-year-old Rachel Melancon, that she would have a scar afterwards. Instead, the doctor used forceps to help deliver the baby. Angie Coats told reporters that the doctor struggled with the forceps, and “even put his foot on the bed” to try and pull the baby out.
"He was turning and twisting and she would never come out,” she recalled. “He put the forceps one way and the other. When he touched the top and side of the skull, we heard a pop, like clay cracking in pottery and heard her skull crush."
The medical staff assured Melancon and her fiance, 25-year-old Allen Coats, that their baby was alive. Olivia Coats was swiftly transferred to Children’s Memorial Harmann Hospital in Houston, where the parents learned that their daughter had suffered several skull fractures. Olivia Coats died on Jan. 2.
In a statement, Matt Roberts, the CEO of The Medical Center of Southeast Texas where Olivia Coats was delivered, said the medical staff was saddened by the newborn’s death. He also said the hospital would investigate the incident of Olivia Coats’ death.
"While patient privacy and peer review restrictions prevent the hospital from commenting specifically, the hospital administration and independent medical staff immediately initiated a review of all aspects of this case,” the statement reads. “Our independent medical staff leadership shares in the hospital's commitment to take all necessary actions to understand why this happened."
The Houston Chronicle reports that Olivia Coats’ parents have started a campaign for the passage of “The Olivia Law,” which would ban the use of forceps during delivery. The couple has even started a fundraiser on Go Fund Me to “raise awareness about the use of forceps and how damaging they can be,” as well as to help the family with medical and funeral costs. So far, the parents have raised over $8,000 through the online fundraiser.
While assisted deliveries through the use of forceps or a vacuum are infrequent and have been on the decline, they’re not unheard of. According to recent National Vital Statistics, 3.4 percent of births in the U.S. were assisted by forceps or vacuum extraction in 2010.
When a C-section is not an option, sometimes a newborn must be delivered with the assistance of one of these devices. Skull fracture is a known risk of the procedures, but experts say doctors are often trained in performing them.
"In the right hands they can save a baby's life," Dr. Jennifer L. Ashton, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told ABC News. "It takes a lot of skill and practice to perform a forceps delivery and most younger [obstetricians] have been trained in vacuum extraction."