Are Hospitals Doing Enough To Protect Mothers From Birth Related Complications and Death?

by Eric Czelusta
Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer

On March 6, 2019, and after reviewing more than a half-million pages of internal hospital quality records, the USA Today published this ( article summarizing its investigation into the increasing maternal death rate during childbirth seen in the United States from 1990 to 2015, and its comparison to other wealthy countries.  In its study titled “Deadly Deliveries – Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren’t doing it.”, a team of investigators from the USA Today found that annually more than 50,000 mothers are severely injured during child birth and about 700 mothers die.  This has resulted in a rise in the maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births in the United States from about 16 in 1990 to 26.4 in 2015. This increase in the maternal death rate in the United States occurred while at the same time other wealthy countries such as Germany, France, Japan, England and Canada saw their maternal death rates decrease to below 10 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The USA Today noted that “the U.S. continues to watch other countries improve as it falls behind” and that “[t]oday, this is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.”

            The USA Today article suggests that these statistics are due in large part to hospitals, doctors, and nurses across the country “ignoring…basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives”.  These ignored tasks include measuring and monitoring maternal blood loss, recognizing elevated maternal blood pressure that ultimately go untreated resulting in strokes and other preventable complications, not recognizing or treating blood clots, and failing to recognize or treated infections to name a few.  According to this report, between 2012 and 2015, Florida had the 15th worst maternal death rate of 22.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, and in 2015 our State had the 4th worst maternal harm rate of 178.9 mothers seriously injured per 100,000 deliveries.

To make things worse, according to this article, these injuries and these deaths are for the most part preventable.  The USA Today reported that 60% of maternal deaths due to high blood pressure were preventable through timely recognition and response to the situation.  Even more shocking is its conclusion that a staggering 90% of deaths due to maternal hemorrhaging were preventable if there were adequate blood loss monitoring and measurements leading to timely response.  It quotes one leading expert in child birth safety as saying, “Our medicine is run by cowboys today, where everyone is riding the range doing whatever they’re wanting to do….”

This article has prompted a Congressional oversight committee to seek briefings from federal agencies to find out what they are doing to address this “alarming” rate of mothers dying or suffering severe injuries related to pregnancy and childbirth.  The House Committee on Energy and Commerce subsequently sent letters to six federal health agencies requesting meetings about what actions they currently are taking, or could be taking to improve data collection, reporting and transparency on maternal health issues and to identify ways to measure patient safety.

Hopefully this study and the follow up actions by the Congressional committee will result in improvements which will help prevent others from suffering maternal injury and death during child birth.  Unfortunately, these measures are too late for many women. If you have suffered an injury during child birth or if a loved one suffered death during childbirth, please give us a call today at: 727-281-4357. Our team of doctors, nurses, and medical malpractice attorneys can evaluate your case with expert eyes at no cost to you.

The Patient’s Law Firm represents patients injured by medical malpractice and nursing home negligence throughout Florida and Tampa Bay including Pinellas County, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County.