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Shoulder Dyostocia: a Severe and Permanent Birth Injury

David Mittleman

Shoulder dyostocia can be one of the most frightening emergencies that can occur in the labor and delivery room. Shoulder dyostocia occurs when an infant’s shoulder becomes stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone after the passage of the infant’s head through the birth canal. The condition is considered a serious obstetrical emergency: fetal death can occur within five minutes if the infant is not promptly delivered since the umbilical cord can become compressed in the birth canal. In addition, shoulder dyostocia can cause Erb’s Palsy (Brachial Plexus Injury), which is a form of nerve damage that can severely and permanently limit the ability of the child to use their arm.

The Swanson family of New York filed a shoulder dyostocia lawsuit in 2006 after the delivery of their newborn child in 2003 who suffered permanent injuries and nerve damage. Subsequently, a New York Supreme Court jury determined that the Northern Westchester Hospital staff botched the delivery of Bruce and Mary Swanson’s son, resulting in the child’s shoulder dyostocia injury and related brain damage, nerve damage, internal bleeding, and multiple bruises. Specifically, the jury determined that the staff failed to handle the situation in a timely manner, leading to permanent brain stem damage. The jury awarded the Swanson’s $56 million but the hospital is attempting to overturn that decision.

The Swanson’s child currently suffers from developmental delays, breathing problems, and a speech impediment.


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