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No Single Solution to America’s Abysmal Maternal Mortality Rates

Posted Friday, June 7, 2019 by Carl-Erich Kruse

Readers of this blog may have read prior coverage of maternal mortality rates in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control recently released the results of a multi-year study of pregnancy related maternal deaths in the United States. Over the course of the study period, 2011-2017, about 700 women died per year in the United States from childbirth related complications. A break down of the results paints a distressing picture for expectant mothers and their loved ones.

The CDC found that some sixty percent of these deaths were preventable with proper medical care.

Additionally, African-American and Native women died at a rate 3.3 and 2.5 times that of white women. Why these extreme disparities exist is the subject of further research and coverage, but one theory regards the quality of care available to different communities in the United States.

Why are some four hundred women dying each year from preventable complications? Why, frankly, may be too big a question to tackle. In each specific case that was preventable, though, there was miscommunication, omission, lack of sufficient access, or overlooking warning signs. The CDC report suggested that reducing the rate of pregnancy related deaths has to be a multi-pronged approach by “reviewing and learning from each death, improving women’s health, and reducing social inequities across the life span, as well as ensuring quality care for pregnant and postpartum women.” Some suggestions included patients and providers working together to best manage chronic health conditions and standardizing approaches to handling obstetrics emergencies.

The process of improving healthcare for expectant mothers is an ongoing and evolving process. Reports like this one, from the CDC no less, serve to provide background for systemic improvements to patient care by raising discreet issues of public interest. There is no silver bullet to improving outcomes for these patients, and change is slow, but studies like this demonstrate that change must happen. The test now is: how does the healthcare system, how to OBs, how do facilities, improve their systems, how do we provide more care to expectant mothers so that we may reduce our maternal mortality rates to be consistent with the rest of the developed world?

Of the many possible answers, bringing meritorious civil suits alleging wrongful death are a useful way to effect change. When community members form a jury and decide what the standards should be in such circumstances, there will be a future deterrent effect, and all of us will be safer.

Read the CDC report here.

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