The United States is the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth.
The fact that women who give birth in the United States are three to five times more likely to die than in countries like Canada, England, Japan, or France is outrageous. Even worse is that instead of this death rate getting better, it is getting worse. As the table set out below shows, since 1990 the death rate of U.S. women has steadily climbed, while death rates in other developed countries have steadily gone down.
A recent Columbus Dispatch article reported that every year thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster. Even more appalling is that this death rate isn’t attributable just to small community hospitals, but is also occurring at some of the top-rated facilities in the country, including here in central Ohio. Current data shows that each year more than 50,000 mothers are severely injured and about 700 mothers die. The best estimates say that 50% of these deaths could be prevented and over half of the injuries reduced or eliminated with care that is simple to provide and has been well known for decades.
Two of the most common causes of maternal injury and death are unnecessary and easily preventable: dangerously high blood pressure from preeclampsia and blood loss before, during, or after delivery. USA Today reports that at some hospitals less than 15% of mothers in peril from dangerously high blood pressures receive recommended treatments. The USA Today investigation notes that dangerously high blood pressure is a leading cause of mothers dying and suffering strokes and that as many as 60% of deaths could be prevented by hospitals taking very simple steps.
The attorneys at Rourke & Blumenthal have been involved in representing far too many families whose loved one has either died or suffered life-altering injuries as a result of failures to address pregnancy related high blood pressure and/or blood loss. Sadly, this type of tragedy has occurred in many of Ohio’s top hospitals. Rourke & Blumenthal attorneys have found that while some of these institutions have excellent policies regarding sudden onset of high blood pressure in pregnant or post-partum women or for monitoring blood loss in mothers who have recently delivered, these policies are frequently not followed. Indeed, many physicians and staff members have indicated that they were unaware that these policies existed. Rourke & Blumenthal calls on hospital administrators, physicians, and staff to demand better training and better practices to help reduce the maternal death rate in the State of Ohio. While Ohio’s maternal death rate is not the worst in the U.S., there are 26 States that currently have a lower maternal death rate than Ohio. We should strive to have the lowest death rate in the country so that Ohio can be a model for the other 49 states on how to better protect mothers.
In the meantime, while we wait for hospitals to improve their care and treatment of mothers, the following link to a USA Today Investigative Report on this issue will lead you to a guide that all expecting mothers should print and take to their next doctor’s visit so that they can discuss what measures will be taken at the hospital where they give birth to protect them from preventable injury and death.
The attorneys at Rourke & Blumenthal would like nothing better than to see the hospitals throughout Ohio take the easy steps that would result in cutting the death and injury rate for mothers in half. In the meantime, they stand ready to represent families that have been forever damaged as a result of hospitals’ failure to follow simple safety guidelines for mothers.