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Family Grieves as Doctor Cleared in Botched Forceps Delivery

Gynecological InstrumentsAn angry UK mother is calling the remarks of the gynecologist involved in her deceased child’s botched forceps delivery “atrocious.” The doctor reportedly told the mother, just minutes after the delivery, that she should have smoked 50 cigarettes a day so that the 9lb. 14 oz. boy would have been smaller.

The child was delivered by c-section after a failed attempt to use forceps. He lived for two days but brain injuries that he suffered during the forceps attempt, which fractured his skull.

Botched forceps delivery lawsuits are less common these days because of safety concerns. According to the CDC, the use of forceps and vacuum extraction have both been declining significantly over the past 25 years. Forceps or vacuum assistance were used in more than 9% of all American births in 1990 but by 2011, forceps were used in less than 1% of the births and vacuum extraction in less than 3% of the births.

Skull fractured in forceps delivery

The mother arrived at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, in labor and one week overdue, on June 15, 2013. She was still in labor the next morning and the gynecologist, Dr. Sharon Oates, was overseeing the care of up to seven patients because another doctor did not show up for work. Dr. Oates reviewed tests showing that there was an issue with the baby’s heartbeat but decided that the mother was making “good progress”.

After four hours, the baby’s heartbeat continued to slow and Dr. Oates attempted to delivery him naturally with the assistance of forceps. The attempt was unsuccessful and the mother underwent a Caesarean section at 2:30 p.m. At 2:54 p.m., the baby was born “floppy” with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Unfortunately, the child’s skull had been fractured by the use of the forceps and he died only 48 hours later.

Birth injury inquest cleared doctor; family still angry

An examination after the baby’s death uncovered that he passed away because of excessive internal bleeding. The bleeding had been caused by the brain damage that resulted from the forceful forceps delivery. The baby’s mother has recalled that as the doctors tried to extract her baby with forceps, she had to hold on to the handles as the bed shook really hard.

Authorities conducted an inquest and found that the baby would have survived if he had been delivered by c-section at 11 a.m. instead of nearly four hours later. However, they also found that the doctor’s appalling remarks, though highly inappropriate, were not meant to be offensive; they found that she could be regarded as having intended to lighten a stressful mood immediately after the difficult delivery.

Forceps delivery increases risks

While forceps are intended to assist a delivery, their use has declined substantially – and in many hospitals, abandoned entirely – because of the risks they present to both mother and child. For the mother, forceps delivery can cause a number of problems including pain and injuries to the genital area, affecting bowel and bladder functioning; anemia; uterine rupture; and uterine prolapse.

For the baby, the forceps may cause birth trauma such as facial and injuries; weakness in the facial muscles; and skull fracture, which can lead to a brain bleed and seizures.

  1. Daily Mail, Mother whose baby died during botched forceps delivery was told that she should have smoked 50 cigarettes a day to have a smaller child,

  2. CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, Volume62, Number 1, June 28, 2013,

  3. Mayo Clinic, Forceps delivery, Risks,