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Maternal Mortality in the United States

For most of human history, giving birth carried significant risks. That changed in the 20th century, when maternal mortality rates fell dramatically. In fact, maternal mortality in the U.S. was about 900 per 100,000 births in 1918, or almost 1%. But in the 40s and 50s, the rate collapsed.

The rise in maternal mortality in the U.S. since 2000 is therefore surprising—almost inexplicable. Why hasn’t the rate continued to fall in the 21st century, given all the medical advances of the past 50 years. Instead, we see small but real increases in maternal mortality, with the rate hitting 15.1 out of 100,000 births in 2005, which was double the rate from a mere three years earlier.

There are many reasons for maternal mortality, including medical malpractice. At Powers & Santola, LLP, we help grieving family members bring legal claims for wrongful death when medical errors lead to tragedy. Speak with our Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to go over the facts of your case.

How Mothers Die

Statistically speaking, maternal mortality measures deaths that occur while a woman is pregnant or within 42 days of a baby’s delivery. The Commonwealth Fund pulled together information about the primary causes of death, including:

  • Infection
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Blood clots
  • Severe bleeding
  • Weakened heart muscle
  • Amniotic fluid embolism

Some of these conditions could stem from improper medical care. For example, a woman might bleed during a C-section, but doctors will not catch it. Her blood pressure crashes until she enters cardiac arrest. Many mistakes along the way lead to this problem, from the failure to stop bleeding to not diagnosing a fall in blood pressure until it was too late.

Similarly, a doctor might fail to diagnose elevated blood pressure and not respond appropriately. A mother could suffer a stroke or organ damage. A failure to properly listen to patients and respond with needed medical interventions is textbook medical malpractice.

Alarmingly, many new mothers get discharged from the hospital with instructions to take a couple aspirin. A few hours later the woman ends up back at the hospital—in the emergency room because she has suffered a terrible medical event.

Does Racial Bias Play a Role?

The statistics also show racial differences in maternal mortality rates. In particular, black mothers have a higher mortality rate than white and Hispanic mothers in the U.S. Further, increased education does not close the gap, as most doctors would expect. A black mother with a college degree suffers a pregnancy-related death more commonly than a white or Hispanic mother who lacks even a high school diploma.

One reason could be that many doctors do not fully listen to what their black patients are saying, or they discount complaints about pain. Had they listened closer, then they could have caught a potential medical problem before it became a crisis. This is a terrifying consequence of racial bias in the delivery of health care.

New York is Not Immune to Maternal Deaths

The mortality rate varies by state. Unfortunately, New York has one of the higher rates in the country. With a mortality rate of 20.8 per 100,000 live births, New York was ahead of Florida (15.8), California (11.7), Maryland (14.1), Massachusetts (17.4), and the United States as a whole (17.4). However, we were below New Jersey (26.7) and Kentucky (40.8).

How Our Law Firm Can Help

Losing a loved one during delivery or shortly thereafter is shocking. Even if the mother survived a stroke or other complication, she probably has medical bills and future medical needs.

You should call our firm to discuss whether you wish to bring a medical malpractice claim. This type of lawsuit is appropriate when medical staff fail to follow the standard of care.

Our firm can get to work helping to build a claim for you. We can:

  • Analyze your medical records to see if a doctor made some mistake that led to injury.
  • Coordinate with medical experts to understand what a doctor should have done in the situation but failed to.
  • Calculate the value of your claim.
  • Submit a demand for compensation to the doctor or hospital.
  • Litigate the dispute if settlement is not possible

Call Powers & Santola

Birth injuries are devastating for families. What should be a happy time is now forever linked with tragedy. Nonetheless, family members might have the ability to hold a doctor or hospital accountable for failing to provide proper care. To determine whether you have a legal claim for malpractice, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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