Congress Seeks to Lower Maternal Death Rate With New Law

Many people in New Mexico may believe that the United States is one of the safest places to give birth. However, research shows this is simply not true. In fact, according to USA TODAY, complications in childbirth kill around 700 women each year, and about 50,000 more suffer serious harm. About half of those who die from complications could have been saved if their doctors had taken proper care to diagnose and treat those complications.

Recognizing that provider error causes more than 300 deaths each year has spurred federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle into action. The result, H.R. 1318 – Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018, focuses on ensuring that states identify which deaths could have been prevented through best medical practices.

States should have maternal death review committees that examine the circumstances of each death carefully and determine the cause. However, rather than evaluating whether the health care team followed best practices, these committees often focus on risk factors of the mothers, essentially placing all responsibility for survival on a mother’s lifestyle choices and societal factors.

According to the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, the Department of Health and Human Services will establish the program and offer grant funding to states for the following purposes:

  • Reviewing pregnancy-related maternal deaths
  • Setting up a state-run maternal mortality review committee
  • Creating a plan to educate health care providers on best practices for maternal care
  • Providing states with a form to ensure that committees gather consistent and relevant information
  • Requiring that the information becomes public

Not only will the law make reporting maternal deaths mandatory, it will also require states to develop a voluntary reporting procedure for family members.

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