Olivia’s Law: Traumatized Parents Push for Forceps Delivery Law Reform After Infant Child Dies

Photo courtesy of www.examiner.com
Photo courtesy of www.examiner.com

by: Brittany Kriebel, Staff Writer

While many of us were ringing in the New Year with our loved ones, infant Olivia Coats’ parents made the difficult decision to take her off life support, saying their goodbyes to her for the last time at a hospital in Houston, Texas. On December 28, 2013, Dr. Backardjehiv allegedly refused to perform a C-Section on Olivia’s mother stating that she would have a scar afterwards. Instead, the doctor used forceps on baby Olivia before delivering her via C-section. Unfortunately, the use of forceps caused baby Olivia to suffer irreparable internal injuries including a severed spinal column and fractured skull. It has been alleged that baby Olivia would have been born perfectly healthy if Dr. Backardjehiv had not used forceps prior to the C-section. Dr. Backardjehiv has allegedly been banned from practicing medicine in at least two other states but those reports have not been confirmed. As a result of this incident, Olivia’s parents are determined to pass “Olivia’s Law,” which would make it illegal for doctors to use forceps during the delivery process.

As the law stands, doctors are allowed to use forceps to deliver babies in certain circumstances, including when the baby’s head is engaged, the cervix is fully dilated, the membranes are ruptured, the fetal size is estimated, and maternal anesthesia is adequate. In addition, the maternal bladder must be empty, the risks of the procedure must be explained to the mother, there must be a willingness to abandon the use of forceps if they are not working or if the labor is prolonged, and the physician must be skilled in the use of forceps. If any of these factors are missing, the family may have a claim against the doctor and ultimately the hospital.

The Olivia’s Law petition recently closed, but while it was active it garnered almost 40,000 signatures. In response to the proposed passage of Olivia’s Law, several medical doctors have responded that this could have very negative consequences for the mother. In their defense of forceps use, doctors claim forceps save lives and can be a very valuable asset when the mother becomes too fatigued and can no longer push to deliver the baby. In addition, doctors assert that the use of forceps during an emergency situation is much quicker and can be more effective than performing a C-Section.

Dr. Backardjehiv has declined to comment to the media, but his staff reported that he is very distraught over baby Olivia’s death. In contrast to the sources that claim he has been banned from practicing medicine in at least two states, other reports have stated that he is licensed to practice medicine in both Texas and Illinois. To this date, there have been no actions taken against him in court. However, if the reports that he has been banned from practicing medicine in two or more states are confirmed, both he and the hospital could be liable to Olivia and her family for the injuries baby Olivia received. The hospital has initiated a review of all aspects of Olivia’s case, and medical staff commented that they are committed to discovering why this horrific incident occurred.

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