After losing his wife after the birth of their second child, Charles Johnson is fighting for legal changes to better protect women from pregnancy-related deaths.
Kira Johnson’s husband is urging state lawmakers in California to adopt and change state and federal laws to help protect women from pregnancy-related deaths. Back in April 2016, Kira died after undergoing a scheduled cesarean section at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Her doctor was Dr. Arjang Naim. The suit accuses Dr. Naim of gross negligence in Kira’s death and the “near deaths of several other women by the California Medical Board.” To this day, however, he is still delivering babies.
What happened, though? What were the circumstances surrounding Kira’s death, and could they have been avoided? It all began when Kira arrived at the hospital to deliver her second son. She had a scheduled c-section that appeared to go off without a hitch. However, hours after the delivery, she was rushed to emergency surgery. Kira’s husband, Charles Johnson, argues the surgery didn’t happen soon enough. According to him, his wife’s medical records show she was “classified as a surgical emergency” around 6:30. She was bleeding internally. Despite the emergency, though, Charles remembers his wife telling him to stay calm. He said:
“As I look back and I play this over and over in my head, like what I do every day, what she understood, just being frank is, if I lost my temper, if I yelled, if I slammed my fist on the nurse or on the nurses station…as an African-American man I would be seen as a threat.”
Even though the hospital classified Kira as a surgical emergency at 6:30, she wasn’t taken back to surgery until after midnight. Charles said, “They opened her up, there were 3 liters of blood in her abdomen where she had been allowed to suffer and bleed needlessly for almost 10 hours. Her heart stopped immediately and they weren’t able to save her.”
Soon after, Naim was placed on probation for 4 years. However, he was allowed to continue supervising and teaching other nurses and doctors. Eventually Charles ended up testifying before the medical board over what happened to his wife. During that meeting, he told the board, “You all are sending a loud definitive message to the state and to this country that women can be killed without consequence…So he [Naim] is a repeat offender but yet he’s still able to practice medicine…I’m afraid that this man will do this to another family.”
Over time, Naim ended up paying Johnson a $1 million settlement, and Johnson filed a lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai that is set to go to trial in the fall. In a statement regarding Charles’ efforts to bring about changes to laws to better protect pregnant women, the hospital said:
“Charles S. Johnson IV is demonstrating important leadership in raising awareness of preventable maternal deaths. Cedars-Sinai faculty members support efforts to improve care and prevent maternal deaths, and are actively involved in community, state, and federal initiatives to safeguard the lives of mothers and their babies.”
During his crusade for change, Charles founded the nonprofit 4kira4moms. Additionally, a “package of bills co-sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris” aimed at improving protections for pregnant women is before Congress at the moment.