It’s a shocking fact — Black mothers are three to four times as likely to die of preventable pregnancy-related complications as non-Hispanic white women. How does this racial disparity affect their babies? The death rate for black infants is twice that of infants born to non-Hispanic white mothers.
This can’t be explained by socioeconomic differences. Black women with a college degree die at a rate that is 5.2 times greater than their white counterparts.
22 percent of Black women report receiving discrimination in their medical care. If you or your loved one numbered in this statistic, we want to hear from you. The lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt have experience in these cases, and will listen compassionately to your experience as they develop a plan to seek justice.
Why Black Women Die at Such Great Rates
The 42.8 deaths per 100,000 live births that Black American women experience is seen nowhere else in the developed world. This mortality rate more closely mirrors a medically developing country like Turkmenistan than it does the the death rate of non-Hispanic white American mothers-to-be.
Lurking behind this mortality difference are a host of poorly diagnosed conditions and risk factors that can pose risk for both mother and baby.
Good doctors should watch for the following conditions, which have a greater propensity for Black women:
- Fibroids: These benign uterine tumors can lead to many maternal complications. They occur at about twice the rate for Black women as they do for white women
- Gestational diabetes: This condition occurs when someone who didn’t previously have diabetes develops it during pregnancy, which can lead to hypertension
- Hypertension: High blood pressure occurs in Black women over the age of 20 at around one-and-a-half times the rate of white women
- Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM): This rare form of heart failure is 3–4 times more likely for Black women than white women
- Postpartum depression and anxiety: These pregnancy-related mental health issues can be triggered by the discrimination that faces Black mothers
- Postpartum hemorrhage: Severe blood loss after giving birth kills Black women at a 5 times greater rate than white women
- Preeclampsia: The high blood pressure and damage to essential organs caused by this condition kills Black women at 3 times the rate of white women
- Preterm births: Premature births are highly correlated with low birth weights and other birth complications. They are 50 percent more likely in Black women than in white women
Medical Negligence and Malpractice Are a Public Health Emergency
The CDC has called the dangers that Black women face in the American health establishment a public health emergency. This is in recognition of the fact that there is no innate reason for these poor medical outcomes in pregnant Black women and their babies. The problem instead lies with the medical establishment.
The CDC has established guidelines that doctors and hospitals must follow with all pregnant women and their babies. If they fail to follow these guidelines, it may be indicative of medical negligence. If this negligence leads to an injury, it may qualify as malpractice.
- Help patients manage chronic conditions which can lead to birth complications, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity
- Communicate with patients about risk factors and warning signs
- Use proper methodology to flag warning signs and apply tests throughout a pregnancy, so women can receive timely treatment
Hospitals and healthcare systems should:
- Identify and address unconscious bias in healthcare
- Standardize coordination of care and response to emergencies
- Improve delivery of quality prenatal and postpartum care
When to Consult with a Lawyer Experienced in Discrimination
With 30 years of experience in birth trauma, McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of medical negligence or professional malpractice.
Our team includes the prominent civil rights lawyer S. Lee Merritt, Esq. Mr. Merritt has represented high-profile civil rights cases like that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man recently shot and killed while jogging in Georgia.