Los Angeles hospital sued for racism in death of black mother | Health, Medicine and Fitness

By BRIAN MELLEY – Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The husband of a black woman who died hours after giving birth in 2016 sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital on Wednesday, saying she bled to death because of a culture of racism in the famous medical center in Los Angeles.

Charles Johnson IV said he discovered the disparity in the care women of color receive at Cedars compared to white women during depositions in his wrongful death lawsuit due to go to trial next week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that my wife would be here today and be there Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with her boys if she were a Caucasian woman,” Johnson said at a press conference. outside the hospital. “The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai Hospital for what we thought was the happiest day of our lives, the biggest risk factor Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism. .”

Johnson died around 12 hours after undergoing a scheduled C-section which was performed in 17 minutes to deliver the couple’s second son, Langston.

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Despite showing signs of internal bleeding, she languished for hours without being readmitted to the operating room until it was too late, according to the lawsuit.

“It’s sloppy. It was butchery,” attorney Nick Rowley said. ) here, the head of labor and delivery, looked at it and said, ‘No, I’ve never seen one done so fast.'”

The surgeon who performed the C-section had cut Kira Johnson’s bladder and it hadn’t been sutured properly, Rowley said. When she was finally taken back to the operating theatre, almost 90% of her blood was found in her stomach.

The hospital, which fought the malpractice lawsuit, said in a statement it was founded on the principles of diversity and healthcare for all and rejected ‘any distortion of our culture and values. “.

“We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly,” the statement said. “We commend Mr. Johnson for his attention to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.”

Kira Johnson’s death has led her husband on a crusade to advocate for reductions in maternal mortality, which is particularly high among black women.

Before the pandemic, which increased the number of deaths of women of color during childbirth, black women died 2.5 times more than white women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Charles Johnson has testified before Congress and at the Sacramento State Capitol in support of various bills, including a 2019 state law that requires doctors and nurses to identify implicit bias in the workplace , and a recent bill that would lift the cap on medical malpractice awards.

Johnson would not benefit from a change in the malpractice law that currently caps compensation at $250,000. The case is set to go to trial on May 11, although recent court documents have indicated the two sides are close to reaching a settlement.

The civil rights case would give Johnson another avenue to collect damages and hold Cedars-Sinai accountable. He is also seeking an injunction that would force the hospital to make changes to protect mothers and women of color.

Johnson said his malpractice lawsuit revealed “rampant racism”, with witnesses saying his wife was abused because of her race.

Dr. Kimberly Gregory, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital, testified that she lives with “structural racism” every day and that it prevents black patients from receiving the same care as whites, according to court documents. She also said that Kira Johnson should have returned to the operating room sooner.

Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology, testified that she told Charles Johnson, “I’m sorry. We failed your family. … This shouldn’t have happened.”

Angelique Washington, a black surgical technologist working in the operating room, said “patient safety was out of reach” when Kira Johnson walked in.

Washington, who has more than 30 years of experience, said she regularly witnesses different treatment for black women, but is afraid to speak out.

“When I see my black patients … come in, I say an extra prayer,” Washington said. “I say a silent prayer for everything to go well. Because you have a lot of racism in the operating room.

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