U.S. Maternal Deaths Are on the Rise

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States maternal mortality ratio has increased between 1990 and 2013 by 136%. Between 2003 and 2013, there were 7,210 maternal deaths in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) database. The rise in maternal deaths is stunning compared to the rest of the world where the maternal mortality rates have decreased by 45% between 1990 and 2013. Compared to other developed regions of the world, the U.S. is lagging far behind in this area. In developed regions of the world, the maternal mortality ratio was down 38%.

Furthermore, neonatal deaths between 2003 and 2013 numbered 277,886 in the U.S. That number of neonatal deaths compared to Sweden, Iceland and the United Kingdom was significantly higher. The birth trauma injuries for neonates for the year 2004, for example, were 1.1-7.5/1,000 births.

Also alarming is the fact that in the U.S., the likelihood of maternal death in high-poverty areas of the country are twice as high as other areas. The maternal mortality rates per 100,000 live births by race or ethnicity was highest among non-Hispanic black women. The next highest, which was less than half, were of American Indians/Alaska native Americans. In short, African-American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

Because of this alarming trend in maternal mortality, 70% of malpractice claims result from substandard care by medical providers or hospital personnel. The substandard care resulting in injury or death in birth trauma cases results in 79% of the monetary damages that are paid to these victims who have sustained life-altering injuries or death.

Those in leadership in hospital-based maternity care are leading the way to better understand and explore the utility of sentinel events and in identifying failures of duty by maternity ward medical providers. A sentinel event, by definition, is “any unanticipated event in the healthcare setting resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient, not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness.”

Although hospitals are not required to report sentinel events, they are required to have a monitoring procedure. They are required to prepare a root-cause analysis within 45 days of an event, and they are required to prepare an action plan so that these events do not reoccur.

In Kreisman Law Office’s practice handling birth trauma injury cases, the families of those who have been injured or have died because of hospital or physician negligence have always stressed the need to make sure that these events do not happen again. The hope of bringing a lawsuit and shining a bright light on bad practices will encourage prevention of infant death and injury to mothers during or after birth and delivery.

Many of the infant deaths and injuries to mothers are both predictable and preventable. Some of the root causes that have been identified by the Joint Commission on sentinel events points out that many of these injuries and deaths are the result of communication problems or staff incompetency, poor orientation and training processes, inadequate fetal monitoring, poor credentialing and supervision as well as delayed responses in emergency situations.

Importantly, the leadership of hospitals, clinics, midwives and neonatal nurses have become well aware of the deficiencies that have caused so many maternal and infant deaths and severe injuries. The leadership of these institutions must maintain the duty to keep mothers and neonates safe.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling cases involving the misdiagnosis and negligence relating to birth injury, including cerebral palsy, seizure disorder or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and the maternal injury or death to mothers during child birth for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Flossmoor, Round Lake Beach, Barrington, Naperville, Wheaton, Evanston, Aurora, St. Charles, Geneva, Joliet, Waukegan, Glen Ellyn, Chicago (South Shore, Wicker Park, Greek Town, West Town, Old Town Triangle, Lincoln Square, Albany Park, Rogers Park, Jefferson Park, Sauganash), New Lenox and Winnetka, Ill.

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