The husband of a black woman who died hours after giving birth in 2016 sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Hospital on Wednesday, saying she bled to death because of a culture of racism at the renowned Los Angeles medical center.
Charles Johnson IV said he discovered the disparity in care women of color in Cedars receive compared to white women during depositions in his wrongful death lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial next week in Los Angeles Superior Court. Angels.
“I have no doubt that my wife would be here today and on Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with her children if she were a Caucasian woman,” Johnson said at a news conference outside the hospital. “The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai Hospital for what we hoped would be the happiest day of our lives, the biggest risk factor Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism.”
Johnson died about 12 hours after having a scheduled C-section that was performed in 17 minutes to give birth to the couple’s second child, Langston.
Despite signs that she was bleeding internally, she languished for hours without being readmitted to the operating room until it was too late, the suit says.
“This is careless. It was carnage,” attorney Nick Rowley said. “It shocked everyone 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 quickly.'”
The surgeon who performed the C-section had cut into Kira Johnson’s bladder and had not sutured it up properly, Rowley said. When she was finally brought back to the operating room, almost 90% of her blood was found in her stomach.
The hospital, which fought the malpractice suit, said in a statement that it was founded on the principles of diversity and health care for all and rejected “any mischaracterization of our culture and values.”
“We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and promote fairness in health care more broadly,” the statement said. “We commend Mr. Johnson for the attention he has given to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.”
Kira Johnson’s death prompted her husband on a crusade to advocate for the reduction of maternal mortality, which is especially high for black women.
Before the pandemic, which increased deaths of women of color during childbirth, black women were dying at a rate 2.5 times that of white women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Charles Johnson has testified before Congress and at the state Capitol in Sacramento in support of a variety of bills, including a 2019 state law requiring doctors and nurses to identify implicit bias at work, and a recent bill That would remove the medical malpractice cap. awards
Johnson would not benefit from a change in negligence law that currently limits awards to $250,000. The case is scheduled to go to trial on May 11, although recent court documents indicated the two sides were close to reaching a settlement.
The civil rights case would give Johnson another avenue to collect damages and hold Cedars-Sinai liable. He is also seeking an injunction requiring the hospital to make changes to protect mothers and women of color.
Johnson said his malpractice claim had revealed “rampant racism,” and witnesses said his wife was treated inappropriately because of her race.
Dr. Kimberly Gregory, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital, testified that she lives with “structural racism” every day and that it prevents black patients from receiving the same care as whites, according to court documents. She also said that Kira Johnson should have returned to the operating room sooner.
Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, testified that she told Charles Johnson, “I’m sorry. We failed your family. … This should not have happened.”
Angelique Washington, a black surgical technologist who works in the operating room, said “patient safety was out the door” when Kira Johnson walked in.
Washington, who has more than 30 years of experience, said she routinely witnessed different treatment of black women but was afraid to speak out.
“When I see my black patients come in, I say an extra prayer,” Washington said. “I pray silently that everything goes well. Because you have a lot of racism in the operating room.”