Father Of 2 Sues Los Angeles Hospital After Wife Dies During Childbirth

Father Of 2 Sues Los Angeles Hospital After Wife Dies During Childbirth

“She’s just not our priority now.” This is what a father of two was told when he told staff at an L.A. hospital his wife was not well after giving birth. Kira Johnson, right, and her husband, Charles Johnson with their oldest son. Source: CNN video

“She’s just not our priority now.” This is what a father of two was told when he tried to inform the staff at a Los Angeles hospital that his wife, a patient, was not well after giving birth to their second child.

Now he’s suing.

This tragedy is nothing new for Black women. “Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” The American Heart Association reported.

Racism and a dismissal of the complaints of Black women by medical authorities are the main reasons behind the deaths, experts say. 

“It’s basically a public health and human rights emergency because it’s been estimated that a significant portion of these deaths could be prevented,” said Dr. Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Basically, Black women are undervalued. They are not monitored as carefully as white women are. When they do present with symptoms, they are often dismissed.”

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And no one is immune. Tennis icon Serena Williams has spoken of her own incident when her complaints after giving birth were at first dismissed by hospital staff until she persisted. 

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“Racism affects so many things before the patient even gets to the clinical encounter. Both implicit bias and structural racism affect how women are cared for in the healthcare system,” said Dr. Allison Bryant Mantha, vice chair of quality, equity and safety in the obstetrics and gynecology department of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

After giving birth, Kira Johnson was experiencing complications. Her husband, Charles Johnson, informed the staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I can see the Foley catheter coming from Kira’s bedside begin to turn pink with blood,” Charles Johnson said. “I just held her by her hands and said, ‘Please, look, my wife isn’t doing well.’ This woman looked me directly in my eyes and said, ‘Sir, your wife just isn’t a priority right now.’”

Hours later she was finally looked at by hospital staff and was taken back into surgery. 

“When they took Kira back to surgery and he opened her up, there were 3 and a half liters of blood in her abdomen from where she’d been allowed to bleed internally for almost 10 hours. Her heart stopped immediately,” Johnson said.

He is now suing Cedars-Sinai Medical Center over the death of his wife, “a successful entrepreneur who spoke five languages. She could fly planes and skydive and seemed invincible to her family, but she died in childbirth,” WISTV reported.

Cedars-Sinai said in a statement it could not respond directly because of privacy laws but that “any situation where there are concerns about a patient’s medical care” is thoroughly investigated.

Johnson also wants to use his wife’s case to shed light on the maternal mortality crisis in which African-American women are the highest victims. He has launched 4Kira4Moms, an advocacy group to bring more attention to the crisis.

“We are in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis that isn’t just shameful for American standards. It’s shameful on a global scale,” Johnson said.