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Georgia baby's decapitation during birth delivery ruled a homicide

The British Broadcasting Corporation

The death of baby who was decapitated during delivery has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner's office in the US state of Georgia.

Parents Jessica Ross and Treveon Taylor sued a hospital that they allege did not tell them their son was decapitated during birth last year.

A medical examiner's office said the cause of death was a broken neck from human action, according to a statement shared by the couple's attorney.

The hospital has denied wrongdoing.

Mr Taylor accused the doctor who delivered the baby and the hospital of lying to them and not allowing them to see their son, whom they named Treveon Taylor Jr.

"We just want justice for our son," Mr Taylor said at a news conference on Wednesday in Atlanta. "They lied to us, they ain't let us touch him, we didn't like it."

Warning - some readers may find details in this story distressing

Mr Taylor spoke alongside his wife, who was too upset to talk.

Ms Ross went to the Southern Regional Medical Center last July expecting to have a "healthy baby", her lawyer, Roderick Edmond, said at the news conference.

But her baby became stuck in the birth canal most likely because of shoulder dystocia, when a baby's shoulder gets stuck behind the pubic bone, according to the family.

Mr Edmond said typical steps for dealing with the condition include manoeuvres, and in an emergency, a caesarean section. Ms Ross said she asked for one initially, but was denied the procedure and forced to push for three hours without delivering her baby.

Mr Taylor and Ms Ross allege that Dr Tracey St Julian, a member of a private practice not employed by the hospital, applied excessive force to the baby in the birth canal to try to pull him out, severing his head. The baby was then delivered through an emergency caesarean section.

"No credible, no reasonably competent obstetrician should ever do this," Mr Edmond said.

The BBC has contacted the hospital for comment. In a statement in August, the medical centre denied the accusations and said the "unfortunate infant death occurred in utero prior to the delivery and decapitation".

The family has also accused the hospital of not telling them their baby was decapitated or allowing them to touch or hold the baby after he was delivered. Staff instead encouraged the couple to get the baby cremated without a post-mortem examination, Mr Edmond said, alleging this was an attempted cover-up.

"They wrapped the baby tightly in a blanket, propped the baby's head up on a blanket," Mr Edmond said at a news conference last year, adding they were "basically making it look like there was no decapitation".

The Clayton County Medical Examiner's Office said it was only alerted to the incident after a funeral home contacted the office because employees thought it was "unusual" that the office was not involved given the circumstances.

The office has referred the incident to police.