Law Office of Robert A. Miller
Serving Oregon Medical Malpractice And Car Accident Clients Statewide
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Who is to blame for the high maternal death rate?

If you are a pregnant Oregon female, it undoubtedly will shock you to learn that the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world. Now a new investigation and report by USA Today reveals that most states, including Oregon, do not even scrutinize maternal deaths, or if they do, fail to include data relating to the medical care pregnant women receive.

While most states have a state review panel, virtually all of these panels focus on infant mortality rather than maternal mortality. They therefore choose to focus on issues relating to the mother’s lifestyle, such as her smoking, eating and seatbelt habits, plus her adherence to a regular schedule of prenatal visits to an OB/GYN or other physician. What they fail to address, however, is what type of care, or lack thereof, a deceased woman actually received during her pregnancy.

Medical errors

Shockingly, over 1,100 women died between 2011 and 2016 in the 18 states that do not study maternal deaths at all. Untold more died in the other states, but their deaths went “unnoticed” because state review panels miss hundreds of these deaths. According to experts, fully half of these deaths could have been prevented had doctors and nurses taken best practice steps to head off potential disasters, such as properly treating maternal high blood pressure and measuring blood loss during and after delivery.

Review panel problems

As you might expect, lack of funding is the most frequent reason given for the absence or inadequacy of state review panels. Other reasons include the following:

  • Political choices to focus on issues other than maternal deaths
  • Panels controlled by private medical associations or lobbying groups
  • Panels consisting only of doctors, nurses and hospital officials whose own interests are in direct conflict with looking closely at medical errors and inadequate medical care
  • Voluntary reporting of maternal deaths
  • Inaccurate or incomplete medical records
  • Inaccurate death certificate information

Given all of the above, your best strategy while pregnant is to be aggressively proactive in your own health care. This is educational information only and not intended as legal advice.

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