Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was recently hit with a discrimination lawsuit over the death of a young mother.
The family of Kira Johnson recently filed a civil rights lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and its parent health system after she died soon after giving birth to her second son. According to the suit, Mrs. Johnson “received inferior care because of the color of her skin.” This is the second time the family has filed a lawsuit over the matter. Earlier this year, a judge dismissed the first suit.
What happened, though? How did Mrs. Johnson die? Well, according to the suit, an autopsy report found that she died “from massive internal bleeding following a planned cesarean section in April 2016.” The surgery lasted 17 minutes, and less than two hours after the delivery, Kira’s husband “noticed blood in her catheter bag.” About an hour later, “a surgical emergency CT scan was ordered…but the scan never happened,” according to the suit. To make matters worse, “she wasn’t taken back to the operating room to find the source of the bleeding until well after midnight, despite her husband’s pleas for help.” Tragically, it was too late to save her, and Kira ended up dying of a postpartum hemorrhage.
In addition to accusing the hospital of negligence and wrongful death, the latest suit alleges racial discrimination. When commenting on the lawsuit, lawyers representing the family said:
“The hard facts that we have uncovered speak directly to the point that there is a culture of racism that is rampant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.”
Nick Rowley, one of the attorneys, added:
“The color of one’s skin simply cannot be allowed to influence the quality of care one receives when they walk into a hospital.”
In an earlier testimony about the incident, surgical technician Angelique Washington said:
“I believe that some of those surgeons that was on that field, in particular, the ones that just drug out their decision making, in my heart, I felt that, is it due to her being a woman of color. Yes, in my opinion…When I see the Black patients come in, I say an extra prayer. And that has been my creed of my career to this day; I say a silent prayer that all goes well. Because you do have racism very much so in the operating room.”
The maternal death rate for Black women is higher than for white women, In 2020 alone, the maternal death rate was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. That was 2.9 times the rate for white women at the time, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Since the loss of his wife, Mr. Johnson has been fighting for justice. He said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that Kira would be here today if she were a White woman…Institutions must be held accountable for enabling cultures of racism and bias that have fatal consequences for Black and brown mothers. My hope is that by filing this suit we will send a clear message to institutions who have failed our families for far too long that we will no longer tolerate racism in the medical treatment we receive.”
In response to the allegations, Cedars-Sinai issued the following statement:
“Cedars-Sinai was founded on the principles of diversity, inclusion, and quality health care for all. We reject any mischaracterization of our culture and values. While disparities exist throughout our society, we are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly…We commend Mr. Johnson for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes. While federal privacy laws prevent us from responding directly about any patient’s care, we have a longstanding commitment to making any changes to ensure we provide patients with the highest level of care.”