Why so Many Maternal Deaths?
Not long ago, we at The Eisen Law Firm, posted a blog article relating to some of the flaws in our health care system when it comes to serving women. Such flaws are again highlighted in the recent New York Times article, “What’s Missing in the Effort to Stop Maternal Deaths” by Austin Frakt. Mr. Frakt elaborates on policies and procedures that could significantly reduce U.S maternal deaths by as much as two thirds of the current rate. Given that half of our population is female, and many of those females go on to become mothers, why isn’t the U.S. making this a bigger patient safety priority?
The Hidden Factors Behind Maternal Deaths
You cannot turn on a news station for long without hearing something about our nation’s health care system, but that is to be expected during an election season. Have you heard anyone discussing maternal deaths lately? Probably not. The United States has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized country. That bears repeating: The United states has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized country. Unpreventable complications in maternal care happen. In fact, they happen so often that doctors and nurses should know precisely how to handle the complications and to take decisive action to prevent injury and death from such complications. Yet, the high rate of maternal death in the U.S. persists.
When considering maternal deaths, most minds go directly to deaths during delivery, but we often forget to consider the deaths in the days or weeks after delivery. Maternal deaths are not just from the complications of delivery. As Mr. Frakt points out, the statistics showing the large number of maternal deaths in the U.S do not even account for the after-delivery deaths related to post-partum difficulties. Women with complicated deliveries may leave the hospital feeling physically well, but may suffer from postpartum depression, PTSD, or other mental health issues related to a traumatic or difficult labor or delivery. Necessary post-delivery resources to cope with such issues are often not available, especially to women of color, minorities, and low-income families.
My parents used to joke that parents should have to pass a test to leave the hospital with a baby. I wouldn’t advocate for a “parent test,” but why can’t moms (and dads) have a short seminar at the hospital focusing on resources available after delivery, not just for the baby, but for themselves? It’s great that most hospitals check to make sure that when you leave the hospital with a baby, you have a correctly-installed car seat, but few hospitals go beyond that and make sure new parents know the danger signs of conditions that can lead to maternal death and how to get help if those signs appear.
Many new moms, particularly those in low-income situations, lose their health insurance coverage shortly after delivery. According to the research done by Mr. Frakt and The New York Times, as many as 55% of women enrolled in Medicaid at the time they give birth, lose that coverage within six months after the delivery. Studies have proven that extended Medicaid resources to cover the post-partum periods reduces maternal deaths. These mothers need coverage, not only during labor and delivery, but afterwards, too. They need resources. They need a voice to advocate for these changes.
The Eisen Law Firm & Maternal Deaths
Although we cannot change policies overnight, we at The Eisen Law Firm are here for you. If you feel that a maternal death in your family could have been avoided or was a result of a medical malpractice, give us a call. Brian Eisen is the first practicing attorney in Ohio to become a Ohio Board Certified Patient Advocate. We are here when you need more than just an attorney, but a true advocate, who stays informed on health care issues in the United States.
If you need our help, just call us at (216) 687-0900 or contact us online today.