Every year in the United States, 50,000 women sustain serious injuries related to childbirth, and 700 hundred women die as a result of perinatal complications. Studies suggest that better medical care could have reduced or prevented the childbirth harm that occurred in nearly half of those cases. However, instead of acknowledging the problem when presented with the evidence or taking steps to improve the medical care available, hospitals tend to cite external factors beyond the control of medical personnel, such as poverty, lifestyle, pre-existing conditions and patient noncompliance, dismissing the data as being the result of an unsound analysis.
Hospitals are not required to disclose rates of childbirth complications, but a recent journalistic investigation identified 120 hospitals around the country with high rates of childbirth harm. The hospitals are large and small, rural and urban. Despite the assertions of the hospitals that financial matters limiting access to care are in large part to blame for the high rates, as well as the concerns of critics that there is a disparity in the care that mothers receive on the basis of race, the data shows that white mothers of sufficient means are as likely to suffer complications during childbirth at these facilities as mothers who are poor and/or black.
At one Louisiana hospital alone, mothers have experienced complications involving extremities lost to gangrene, loss of ability to have more children due to uterine rupture and death due to blood clots and untreated high blood pressure. Despite the hospital’s protests, demographics alone are not enough to explain these incidents. The common denominator is the care they received at the hospital, some of which they received from trainee doctors supposed to be under supervision. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education placed this particular institution on warning status in 2018. Though a spokesperson for the facility said the change of status had nothing to do with patient care, records indicate that it shows the Review Committee has serious concerns about its performance.
Patients deserve the best care available, and when they do not receive it, they should at least expect an honest explanation rather than finger-pointing and victim-blaming. Those who have experienced negligence while under a doctor’s care may find it helpful to consult an attorney.