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Black Mother Dies After Childbirth, Husband Files Suit

— May 5, 2022

Widower files a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles hospital.

A Black mother passed away in 2020 after giving birth to her son in 2016 at Cedars-Sinai Medical hospital in Los Angeles.  Now, her husband, Charles Johnson IV, has filed a wrongful death suit against the medical complex, claiming his wife “bled to death because of a culture of racism.”  Johnson alleged he “discovered the disparity in care women of color receive at Cedars compared to white women” during his deposition, especially after a nurse told him that his wife “wasn’t a priority.”  The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“Kira died because she’s Black, said Charles. “Women of color don’t get the same treatment as white women. That’s a fact.  There is 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.  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, 39, faced was racism.”

Black Mother Dies After Childbirth, Husband Files Suit
Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Kira died 12 hours after having a cesarean section (C-section) that the couple scheduled ahead of time.  It was performed in just 17 minutes and their second son, Langston, was delivered.  Yet, Langston’s mother began showing signs that she was bleeding internally and, despite this, she “languished for hours without being readmitted to the operating room until it was too late,” the lawsuit states.

“This is sloppy.  It was butchery,” Johnson’s attorney, Nick Rowley, said. “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.’”

“I’m sorry. We failed your family,” OB-GYN chair Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick told Johnson in her deposition. “This shouldn’t have happened.”

Angelique Washington, a Black surgical technologist, testified that “patient safety was out the door” when Kira eventually came into the operating room.

The surgeon who performed the C-section had cut into Kira ‘s bladder and didn’t bother to properly stitch the area.  After she was finally transported to an operating room, nearly “90% of her blood was found in her stomach,” according to court records.

The hospital is fighting the suit, stating it is opposed to “any mischaracterization of our culture and values.”  Furthermore, a statement submitted to the court indicates that Cedars-Sinai is fundamentally “founded on principles of diversity and health care for all…We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly.”

Administers also indicated they are looking into the matter and are willing to make changes to improve the hospital’s protocols.  The statement continued, “We commend Mr. Johnson for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.  We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly.”


L.A. hospital sued for racism in Black mother’s death

LA hospital sued for racism in death of Black mother

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