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Despite the advanced medical technology and knowledge our doctors possess, the United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world to give birth. In fact, there are more than 50,000 severe injuries and 700 maternal deaths each year – half of which could be prevented with proper medical care.

Black mothers are at particularly high risk, with mortality rates three to four times higher than the nation’s average. Education and wealth do little to alleviate this gap: black mothers who are well-off and college educated still face more complications and die at higher rates than white mothers without high school diplomas. Additionally, black infants are twice more likely to be born prematurely and die before turning one than white infants.

Institutional racism in the medical field plays a critical role in the continuation of these disparities. One NPR study found that one in three black women have felt discriminated by a healthcare professional at some point. On top of that, 20 percent of black people have avoided medical care due to fears of discrimination.

On a positive note, new efforts have proven to be effective in reducing these discrepancies. A recent study of 15.6 million infants found that in areas that expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income families from 2014 to 2016, which includes Washington, D.C., the disparities in infant birth weight and prematurity seem to be shrinking. There was a 14.5 percent reduction in black infant mortality in these areas from 2014 to 2016.

It is unacceptable for black mothers and their newborns to be treated with a lower quality of care than their white counterparts.  If you or a loved one experienced a birth injury because of a doctor’s negligence, consider reaching out to an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.

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