A father of two is suing Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, where his wife died during what was supposed to be a routine cesarean section. Charles Johnson says wife Kira's Foley catheter turned pink with blood as son Langston was delivered three years ago. When he raised concerns, "this woman looked me directly in my eyes and said, 'Sir, your wife just isn't a priority right now.'" He says it was almost 10 hours later when Kira went back into surgery. "There were 3.5 liters of blood in her abdomen, from where she had been allowed to bleed internally … and her heart stopped immediately," he tells CNN. His lawsuit comes as a new report finds the US is the only developed country where the death rate for pregnant or new mothers is climbing. In 2018, 658 such women died in the US, per KTLA. CNN reports that's more than in Iran, Turkey, or Kazakhstan.
"We are in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis that isn't just shameful for American standards. It is shameful on a global scale," says Johnson. The death rate is even higher for black women like Kira. "A well-educated African American woman with more than a high school education has a fivefold risk of death compared to a white woman with less than a high school education," says Wanda Barfield, head of the CDC's Division of Reproductive Health, who cites institutional racism. Johnson says he hopes to hold doctors and hospitals to account. "If I can simply do something to make sure that I send other mothers home with their precious babies, then it's all worth it," he tells CNN. In a statement, Cedars-Sinai says it can't comment on the specific case but "thoroughly investigates any situation where there are concerns about a patient's medical care." (Read more childbirth stories.)