A widowed husband announced a lawsuit on May 4 against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, over what he argues is embedded racism at the institution, which may have ultimately resulted in the 2016 death of his wife after childbirth.
The concerns of Charles Johnson IV — the man behind the lawsuit — speak to the bleak and heartbreaking statistics related to the high level of Black maternal mortality in the United States.
Black women are currently three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that my wife would be here today and be here Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with her boys if she was a Caucasian woman,” Johnson said during a news conference, the Associated Press first reported.
“The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai hospital for what we expected to be the happiest day of our lives, the greatest risk factor that Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism.”
Johnson’s wife died around 12 hours after giving birth to the couple’s second child, a son named Langston, during her 17-minute long pre-scheduled cesarean section.
Despite her requests to be readmitted to the operating room after delivery, Kira ultimately died due to excessive internal bleeding and was only 39-years old when she passed away.
“This is sloppy. It was butchery,” said attorney Nicholas Rowley of the medical care performed on Kira. “It shocked everybody that we deposed, all the health care providers, even the head of (obstetrics) here, the head of labor and delivery, looked at it and said ‘No, I’ve never seen one done that fast.'”
Rowley detailed that 90% of Kira’s blood was later found in her stomach and that the mother’s bladder had been lacerated and not properly sutured, according to NBC News.
Although Cedars has been fighting the malpractice accusations, the lawsuit particularly targets the hospital and the doctor in charge of Kira’s care for “wrongful death” and “emotional distress,” Parents reports.
Cedars noted in a statement that it rejects “any mischaracterization of our culture and values” — which the hospital argues are rooted in diversity and accessible health care.
“We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly,” Cedars’ statement reads.
“We commend Mr. Johnson for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.”
Since Kira’s passing, her husband has testified before Congress and at the state capitol in Sacramento amid his advocacy for increased Black maternal health care.
The lawsuit’s trial is set to begin on May 11, although a settlement could be reached before then.