Racism at LA Hospital Killed Black Mom: Suit

Charles Johnson files civil rights suit over death of wife Kira, who died hours after c-section
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2022 8:42 AM CDT
Racism at LA Hospital Killed Black Mom: Suit
Charles Johnson, left, wears a button with a picture of his wife Kira during a press conference announcing a lawsuit outside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A Black couple walked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on April 12, 2016 for what they thought would be "the happiest day of our lives." Instead, just 12 hours after giving birth to the couple's second son during a remarkably fast Cesarean section, Kira Dixon Johnson was dead, per the AP. "There's 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," husband Charles Johnson IV said at a Wednesday news conference outside Cedars-Sinai, which is named in a new civil rights lawsuit. It claims Kira died after a 10-hour delay in care because she was Black, per the Los Angeles Times.

Attorney Nicholas Rowley described her 17-minute routine C-section as "butchery." "It shocked everybody that we deposed," he said, per the AP, adding even the head of labor and delivery acknowledged having "never seen one done that fast." Kira, 39, showed signs of internal bleeding over 10 hours but was told she was not a priority, according to the suit. She died soon after she was readmitted to the operation room. Rowley said her lacerated bladder had not been properly sutured and almost 90% of her blood was in her stomach. The greatest risk factor she faced was "racism," said Johnson, whose separate wrongful death lawsuit, filed against the hospital in 2017, is set to go to trial on May 11.

Malpractice awards are limited to $250,000 by law, per the AP, though Johnson supports a bill that would lift those limits for others. He will be eligible for additional damages through the civil rights suit. During depositions, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital testified that "structural racism" prevents Black patients from receiving the same care as whites, while a Black surgical technologist testified that she routinely saw Black women treated differently. The hospital acknowledges "racial disparities in maternal outcomes"—Black women died at 2.9 times the rate of white women during childbirth in the US in 2020—but says it's "actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly." (More medical malpractice stories.)

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