America’s Maternal Mortality Rate Epidemic

Sadly, many of the medical malpractice cases our firm handles involve the death or sever injury related to pregnancy.  According to ProPublica, an independent and non-profit investigative journal, there are an estimated 700-900 women that died from pregnancy related causes in the year 2016. ProPublica’s article, “Lost Mothers,” claims to have identified 134 of these mothers.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently defines maternal death as “the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication, a chain of events initiated by pregnancy, or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy.”

Currently, the United States leads with the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. However, many of the deaths caused by complications during pregnancy or childbirth are underreported or invisible. In addition, according to ProPublica, at least 60 percent of these maternal deaths are preventable. The organization is raising the flag that our health care system is focusing greatly on the health of the child, while neglecting the health of the mother.

The article reports the inability and unwillingness of the states and federal government to address the high maternal death rate. According to ProPublica, when a new or expecting mother dies, “her obituary rarely mentions the circumstances. Her identity is shrouded by medical institutions, regulators and state maternal mortality review committees… The lessons to be learned from her death are often lost as well.” Unfortunately, when the medical profession does not police itself, medical malpractice lawsuits become the only way to enforce good standards of care for patients.

To help address the problem, NPR and ProPublica have taken to social media and other sources to connect with the families of the mothers who died. The project surfaced 134 pregnancy and childbirth related deaths in 2016 out of an estimated total of 700 – 900 in the United States.

The data reports the age range of the deceased mothers being from 16 to 23. The mothers were diverse in terms of ethnicity, geography, and economic status. The causes of death included pregnancy and child-birth related complications including:

  • Hemorrhaging
  • Placental abruption
  • Amniotic fluid embolism
  • Organ Failure
  • Infection
  • Complications of pre-existing medical conditions
  • Pregnancy-induced heart-failure
  • Ectopic pregnancies
  • Suicide
  • Other complications

Many of the maternal deaths in the post-partum period occurred due to undiagnosed or untreated depression and mood disorders. The article mentioned that there were missed opportunities to save lives in a large number of the reported cases. This is entirely consistent with our experience in representing victims of medical malpractice and medical neglect.

ProPublica and NPR have identified more than 450 maternal deaths since the year 2011 and 134 in 2016. They continue to research women who have died from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes in order to better understand the epidemic and raise awareness.

Do you have questions about medical care you have received?  The Badgley Law Group is a Central Florida law firm that handles personal injury, including medical malpractice. For more information on how we can help, contact us at (407) 781-0420.

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