LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Kentucky doctor attending to a woman in labor talked of possibly missing his vacation flight before using forceps to try to deliver the baby, causing extreme bruising to the infant’s head, witnesses told state medical regulators.

During the delivery, a condition occurred that endangered the baby. The infant was not breathing and had no heartbeat after another doctor delivered him by Cesarean section, witnesses said.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure filed a complaint last week against Dr. Gerald W. Thorpe as a result of the incident at T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow.

That followed an emergency order in June barring Thorpe from taking part in any deliveries. A consultant had said Thorpe demonstrated “gross incompetence” in how he handled the birth.

Thorpes’ attorney, Daniel G. Brown, said Thorpe disputes the allegations against him and intends to “vigorously” contest them.

“We are confident he will be completely vindicated once he is given an opportunity to be heard in this matter,” Brown said.

The birth at issue happened last September. The KBML complaint did not identify the parents.

Witnesses told the licensure board that the mother was doing fine trying to push during delivery and that the baby showed no signs of distress on the monitor, but the delivery was going slow.

Stephanie Austin, a nurse helping the mother, said that when Thorpe came to check on the mother, he told the parents he could either pass them off to another doctor who would be covering for him, or he could use forceps to help with the delivery “because he has a plane to catch.”

The parents looked at each other and then told Thorpe to do what he thought was best, Austin said.

John Craddock, another physician, told the licensure board a nurse told him Thorpe said, “If I don’t put a forceps or vacuum on, I will miss my flight.”

Thorpe pulled three times with the forceps, a device shaped like a large pair of large spoons that fit round the baby’s head. Forceps deliveries carry risks to the mother and baby, though serious injuries to infants are rare, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Thorpe said after the third pull that there was a prolapsed umbilical cord, Austin said.

That is a condition that can cut off oxygen to to the baby and is considered an emergency.

Another nurse, Natalie Bruce, said the condition happened when Thorpe withdrew the forceps.

“At this point there was no longer a heartbeat detected on the monitor,” Bruce said, according to the licensure board.

Nurses began scrambling to get the mother to the operating room for an emergency Cesarean, or C-section, delivery, but Thorpe then tried to attach a vacuum device to the baby’s head to help pull him out, witnesses said.

That didn’t work. At that time, Craddock, who had been called by a nurse, arrived and said to get the mother to the operating room, witnesses said.

Thorpe told Craddock, “I need you to do this C-section, I have to leave for vacation,” Craddock said in a grievance to the licensure board.

Craddock did the operation, delivering a “very unresponsive” baby.

Natalie Bruce, another nurse, said the baby had no heartbeat and wasn’t breathing. Nurses worked for four minutes and 30 seconds to resuscitate him before detecting a heartbeat, she said.

Craddock said when he checked on the baby, his head was extremely bruised and his skin was pale gray.

Bruce said the baby began having seizure-like activity. The complaint by the licensure board did not say what ultimately happened to him.

Craddock said the incident was one of several in which Thorpe had shown a “significant deviation” from the normal standard of care.

“I strongly believe there is a significant risk to patient safety,” Craddock told the board.

The board consultant faulted Thorpe for trying to deliver the baby vaginally despite the prolapsed cord, and for not making sure someone kept the baby’s head off the cord to relieve pressure and preserve oxygen flow.

TJ Regional Health, which operates the hospital, terminated Thorpe’s agreement with the hospital soon after the incident.

Thorpe went to medical school at the University of Kansas and has been licensed in Kentucky since 2015.


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