Attorneys

Will Congress act to address the maternal mortality rate?

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is alarming, and black women are at particular risk.

The maternal mortality rate in the United States has raised dramatically since 2010. This is not a global problem. While most other industrialized countries have reduced the rate of pregnancy related deaths, the U.S. continues to struggle with a growing maternal mortality rate. The World Health Organization reports most other countries average 12 deaths per 100,000 live births while the United States averages over 26 deaths.

Researchers also note the problem does not treat every patient equally. There is a racial disparity. African American mothers are four times more likely to die due to pregnancy related complications compared to their white mother counterparts. Serena Williams, tennis great and black mother, recently shared her story to bring attention to this problem.

Serena Williams, clearly the picture of good health, has a history of blood clots. These clots can form within the blood stream and can damage organs and potentially be fatal. She experienced complications during her delivery that led to an emergency cesarean section (C-section). Ms. Williams had to stop her blood thinning medication to heal from the procedure. The day after the C-section, she began to feel short of breath. She demanded a CT scan to verify and medication to help her recover. According to a piece in CNN, the nurse believed the medications had left the tennis great "befuddled." Ms. Williams then requested assistance from the doctor, who performed an ultrasound. The ultrasound was negative, but Ms. Williams continued to insist upon a CT test.

Upon her insistence, the test was conducted. It revealed multiple blood clots. She required an additional surgery to remove one near her lungs. During this procedure the medical team found a larger clot within her abdomen. These clots could prove potentially fatal if left untreated.

Why the increase in maternal mortality rates?

Experts point out mothers are entering pregnancy with preexisting conditions that increase the likelihood of complications like advanced maternal age and cardiovascular disease. Even with this fact in mind, a large portion of deaths due to pregnancy related complications are the result of preventable complications like blood loss.

What is being done to stop this trend?

Mothers are most susceptible to these issues after a pregnancy. Congress is taking two bills into consideration that could help put a stop to this growing trend. One bill in the Senate and the other in the House aim to support state-level efforts to put together committees to investigate pregnancy-related deaths. Once the committees gather this data, these groups could develop solutions that would help resolve the maternal death rate in their state.

In the meantime, those who are injured or suffer the loss of a loved one due to a pregnancy related injury may be eligible to receive compensation through a civil suit. Cases involving medical negligence are generally eligible for monetary awards to help cover the costs resulting from the subpar level of medical care. This can include costs incurred from additional medical procedures, like those noted above for Serena Williams, lost wages and pain and suffering.