Maternal Death Prevention Law Enacted after Widower’s Advocacy
After the death of his wife, Charles Johnson became a champion in the fight against maternal deaths in the United States. His advocacy, coupled with that of U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, led to the Preventing Maternal Death Act of 2018. President Donald Trump signed this significant legislation into law in December.
The bill’s enactment represents a major step toward improving maternal health policies for American women. As experienced medical malpractice attorneys in New Jersey, we see far too many cases of women who suffer serious injuries and death due to childbirth-related negligence. In this article, we examine the issue of pregnancy-related deaths and how one man’s tragedy turned into prevention for millions of other mothers.
What is a Pregnancy-Related Death?
A pregnancy-related death is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 1 year of the end of a pregnancy. The outcome, term, or site of the pregnancy is irrelevant. Moreover, a pregnancy-related death can result from any cause (other than accidental or incidental causes) related to, or aggravated by, the pregnancy or its management.
Pregnancy-Related Death: Understanding the Issue
Copious amounts of research have affirmed the U.S.’s poor care and outcomes as it relates to expectant mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. has climbed since 1987. Specifically, there were 7.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987. Since then, the number of deaths has spiked to 18 per 100,000 live births in 2014.
The U.S. continues to under-perform when compared with other countries. In fact, it ranks 50th internationally in terms of its maternal mortality rate and is among only eight other countries in which the maternal mortality rate has increased in recent years.
Research also shows a significant disparity in the number of maternal deaths in black versus white women in the U.S. The rate of pregnancy-related deaths is clearly drawn along racial lines when considering the following data. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 12.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births among white women, while there were 40 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births among black women, and 17.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births among mothers of other races.
What is The Preventing Maternal Death Act?
Bill H. R. 1318, also known as The Preventing Maternal Death Act, is intended to promote better health and life-saving measures in the care of mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postpartum period. The bill states its goals as the following:
“To support States in their work to save and sustain the health of mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the postpartum period, to eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes for pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths, to identify solutions to improve healthcare quality and health outcomes for mothers, and for other purposes.”
The law allocates grants to all 50 states to investigate the underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths within their jurisdictions. It also seeks to improve maternal healthcare overall by requiring further education for healthcare providers.
The People Driving the Effort to Support Maternal Health
This bill was sponsored by Republican Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, who suffered complications while pregnant with her first child in 2012. Herrera Beutler’s baby was diagnosed with Potter Syndrome while in utero. Potter Syndrome is a rare condition that prevents kidney development due to an insufficient amount of amniotic fluid. An experimental treatment ultimately saved Herrera Beutler’s unborn baby from what doctors said was certain death.
The everyday citizen behind the effort to prevent pregnancy-related deaths is Charles Johnson, who lost his wife after the birth of their second child in 2016. Johnson’s wife Kira delivered their first son via C-section two years prior to her death. After her second healthy baby was delivered via C-section without complications, she died from massive internal bleeding. How do this happen you wonder?
Kira underwent surgery for the cesarean, which was successful. Shortly thereafter, the catheter placed into her bladder to drain urine began to fill with blood. Once medical staff were notified, doctors ordered a CT scan to address a “surgical emergency.” Kira lingered in jeopardy without a CT scan for the next four hours. During this time, several ultrasounds revealed a growing hematoma. Ten hours after the first sign of blood in Kira’s catheter, she underwent a procedure, during which she died. There were 3.5 liters of blood in her abdomen at the time of her death.
Johnson is now a widower raising two children on his own. He founded an advocacy group called 4Kira4Moms to help other women avoid the tragic fate his wife succumbed to as a result of negligent pregnancy and birth-related care. Johnson spoke before Congress to ensure their full understanding of the individual impact that substandard maternal healthcare has on American women and their families.
What You can do if You’ve Been Affected by Pregnancy-Related Medical Malpractice in New Jersey
While this law represents a significant step toward better healthcare for pregnant women, the law also provides victims of medical negligence with an opportunity for justice. If you or a loved one suffered harm or death due to a healthcare provider’s inadequate care during pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period, you should seek legal counsel. The New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group are here to advise you of your rights. Call 973-435-4551 to discuss your case and receive a free consultation.