Just over six years ago, a soon to be mother of two died in the operating room only 17 minutes after delivering the second child born to her and her husband, Charles Johnson IV. According to the CDC, Black women die at rates three times higher than that of white mothers during childbirth, and Johnson is unwilling to let his wife become a statistic without due justice. He is suing Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for what he says is the culture of racism within the institution that led to her death.
“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,’’ Johnson said outside of the hospital during a news conference. “The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai hospital for what we expected to be the happiest day of our lives, the greatest risk factor that Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism.’’
After a scheduled cesarean section, Dixon Johsnon showed signs that she was bleeding internally. Despite her husband’s pleas, she would not be readmitted into the operating room until it was too late. She ended up dying from internal bleeding with nearly 90% of the blood later found in her stomach.
“This is sloppy. It was butchery,’’ said Attorney Nicholas Rowley. “It shocked everybody 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 fast.’’’
The hospital however is fighting the malpractice lawsuit. According to NPR, a statement was released by Cedars-Sinai that in part read that it was founded on principles of diversity and health care for all and it rejected “any mischaracterization of our culture and values.’’
“We are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in health care and advance equity in health care more broadly,’’ the statement continued. “We commend Mr. Johnson for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes.’’
Charles Johnson is now dedicated to advocating for women of color during childbirth. He has testified before Congress as well as the state Capitol in Sacramento in support of several bills that would require medical professionals to acknowledge implicit bias at work. Johnson is also supporting a more recent bill that would lift the cap on medical malpractice awards.
Angelique Washington, a Black surgical technologist, said that “patient safety was out the door’’ when Kira Johnson was brought into the operating room. After 30 years in the industry, Washington stated that she’s witnessed Black women get treated poorly time and time again, but has always been too afraid to speak up.
“When I see my Black ... patients come in, I say an extra prayer,’’ Washington said. “I say a silent prayer that all goes well. Because you do have racism very much so in the operating room.’’
Johnson and his legal team will have a hard fight ahead of them in proving patterns of discrimination to win their case. But it’s a battle Johnson refuses to retreat from until he receives justice for his wife, a Black woman and mother that should be here celebrating like all others.