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Accidental Fetal Decapitation: A Case of Medical and Ethical Mishap

Hiss, Jehuda MD*; Kahana, Tzipi PhD†; Burshtein, Irad MD‡

American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology: September 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - pp 245-247
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181d3d9be
Case Reports

Blunt trauma to the head and neck of a newborn during delivery process is a rare event. We report a peculiar case of decapitation of a live fetus during vacuum-assisted delivery, where excessive traction on the head of the full-term macrosomic fetus with shoulder dystocia resulted in overstretching of the neck up to the point of decapitation. The ethical considerations related to the case are discussed in light of the policy of complete transparency advocated by the medical profession. Despite the existence of regulations regarding full disclosure of errors to the medical institution, the Ministry of Health and to the patient, medical practitioners are reluctant to divulge all the details of adverse events to the patient.

From the *The National Centre of Forensic Medicine, the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; †Division of Identification and Forensic Science, Israel National Police, Head Quarters, Jerusalem, Israel; and ‡Department of Obstetric and Gynecology, Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre, Tzrifin, Israel.

Manuscript received March 11, 2009; accepted April 11, 2009.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Tzipi Kahana, PhD, The National Centre of Forensic Medicine, 67 Ben Zvi Road, P. O. Box 8495, 61085 Tel Aviv, Israel.

© 2011 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.