New Report on Pregnancy-Related Deaths Finds Many are Preventable

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Maternal mortality NJ legal helpThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest report on pregnancy-related deaths concludes that 2 out of every 3 of maternal deaths during or within one year of pregnancy are preventable. For the purposes of the report, pregnancy-related refers to deaths occurring prenatally, during delivery, and postnatally up to one year. The possible causes of pregnancy-related deaths include those linked to pregnancy, as opposed to external causes of death unrelated to pregnancy. To clarify, a pregnant woman dying in a car accident is not considered pregnancy-related; however, suicide due to postpartum depression constitutes a qualifying cause.

The study underlying the CDC report analyzed data collected from 2008 to 2017 by 14 maternal mortality review committees from various regions. These committees review patient records to discover first, what caused patient deaths and second, what can be done to correct and improve those errors or failings.

Among the 1,347 maternal deaths over a nine-year period, 36% died of pregnancy-related causes, that is, 1 in 3 women dying during pregnancy or delivery, or within one year of pregnancy from pregnancy-related causes. Of those, the vast majority of the deaths were caused by accidental injuries, like anesthesia complications, as well as various diseases and disorders, such as autoimmune and blood disorders, seizures, malignancy, metabolic, endocrine, and pulmonary illnesses. Other causes include homicide and amniotic fluid embolism, in addition to more typical pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and eclampsia.

Deaths Related to Pregnancy Can be Prevented

The study concluded that the majority of the deaths, 2 out of every 3, could have been avoided. Other notable statistics released in the CDC report show mortality disparities based on race, income, and region. For example, women of color, women in poverty, and women in rural areas disproportionately died from pregnancy-related issues.

While some of the pregnancy-related deaths highlight unequal access to healthcare, systemic inequality, and state variability in postpartum Medicaid insurance coverage, disproportionately affecting distinct populations, 76% of the women died of treatable conditions.

In particular, approximately 75% of all pregnancy deaths were due to:

As for those who fared worse in comparison to other demographics, causes may be attributed to systemic and socioeconomic inequalities that prevent women of color and women with limited financial means from obtaining proper prenatal and postnatal care. Medicaid insurance, accessed primarily by those living below the federal poverty line, does not cover postnatal care in some states. Medicaid covers over half of all births in the United States but ends six weeks after delivery. This reality exists despite the fact that studies show prenatal care, proper care during delivery, and postnatal care, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, as well as reduce cesarean deliveries.

Aside from inherent societal inequalities and shortcomings of the healthcare insurance systems, the study underscores the large number of women dying in preventable circumstances. Some of these preventable events and unintended injuries leading to deaths inevitably involve healthcare providers who fail to diagnose or treat pregnancy-related conditions, fail to identify or manage high-risk pregnancies, and otherwise negligently attend to maternal health in the critical period before and after birth.

Medical Provider’s Role in Preventing Pregnancy-Related Mortality

Depression, heart disease, hypertension, and hemorrhage, as well as other delivery emergencies, may be detected and handled by careful family history charting, preparation, and follow up care. Healthcare providers who recognize the signs and diagnose medical conditions, in addition to offering appropriate referrals when mental health issues are suspected, can serve as vital intercessors, preventing serious complications for their patients and in the most devastating cases, maternal death. Moreover, some women died within 42 days after giving birth from mental illness leading to suicide, drug overdose, and homicide. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and referral to appropriate mental health caregivers and resources, these conditions do not have to lead to death.

Although preventive measures exist, medical errors, missed diagnoses, incorrect diagnoses that result in the wrong treatments, lack of preparation, failure to intervene in emergency birthing situations, and communication breakdowns between hospitals, staff, and doctors contribute to maternal mortality. For instance, delayed C-sections have the potential to result in complications for the mother, such as placental abruption, as well as fetal distress and oxygen deprivation that may lead to cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and other permanent birth injuries for the baby.

Can I Sue for Maternal Death in New Jersey?

Whether institution-wide systemic errors or individual health professional error, these pregnancy related mistakes are costly, often the price of a woman’s life. When a woman loses her life due to negligent medical care, her loved ones may seek compensation from those professionals and institutions who are responsible for medical malpractice. While a successful lawsuit cannot compensate for love, companionship, and life lost, it may help to pay for the care, education, and upbringing of a child or children left behind. Holding negligent doctors accountable through litigation can also provide damages for the family’s pain and suffering, and hopefully, offer some small sense of justice in the face of tragedy.

If your loved one’s physician or another medical provider failed to protect her life in the time surrounding pregnancy in New Jersey, seek legal assistance from a highly knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney at Fronzuto Law Group. Our firm has unique experience handling pregnancy negligence cases and we are here to provide you with more information. Contact us to find out what steps you can take to redress wrongful death from prenatal, birth, or postnatal malpractice in New Jersey. We invite you to call 973-435-4551 today for a free consultation.

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