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The risk of medical negligence during pregnancy and childbirth

The shocking death of Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie at just 32 has reignited a conversation about the high fatality rate of Black women in America, regardless of their ability to access the best health care, in pregnancy and childbirth. It also has led to increased discussion about the risks of preeclampsia and eclampsia.

The track-and-field star died after she went into labor in her home in her eighth month of pregnancy. Her baby did not survive either. The coroner’s report listed eclampsia as a possible contributor to her death.

Preeclampsia and eclampsia

Both are very rare conditions associated with pregnancy. However, as one OB-GYN explains, Black women are dying from preeclampsia and eclampsia at an “estimated five times the rate” of white women.

The leading risk factor for developing eclampsia, which involves seizures and disorientation, is preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can be easily diagnosed because symptoms include high blood pressure and evidence of protein in the urine, which can be found during routine pregnancy exams and testing.

Some people – for example, those who already have high blood pressure or diabetes – may be more likely to develop preeclampsia than others. However, others have no such preexisting conditions before developing it. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious — even fatal — complications for both the mother and baby.”

A different outcome for another Olympic track star

Allyson Felix was diagnosed in 2018 with a severe case of preeclampsia at about the same time in her pregnancy that Bowie went into labor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which published a first-hand account of her story, Felix “was surprised to learn during a prenatal visit that she had elevated levels of protein in her urine and had developed high blood pressure. Her doctor admitted her into the hospital for further monitoring and testing. She was then sent for an emergency C-section. Her doctor’s fast actions may have saved her life.” Her baby, although premature, is now healthy.

Thorough diagnostic tests and prompt action can and do make a difference when complications occur in pregnancy. When doctors don’t conduct the necessary tests or minimize or ignore dangerous symptoms like high blood pressure, they’re putting lives at risk. When someone suffers harm as a result, it’s worthwhile to explore the options for justice and compensation.

To learn more, contact an Easton medical malpractice attorney today.

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