Pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented by medical review panel

Washington will now have a review commission to identify reasons for and prevent future pregnancy-related deaths under legislation sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, which today received final approval by the Washington State Legislature. Pregnancy-related deaths have been on the rise nationally during the past 30 years from a rate of 7.2 per 100,000 live births in 1987, to 15.9 in 2012. Washington’s maternal mortality review panel would analyze the leading causes of and develop ways to reduce preventable deaths.

“Bringing together health care experts to collaborate on best practices and share essential information will help save women’s lives,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who serves as chair of the Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. “Right now our state is missing out on key opportunities to improve health care as reports indicate that up to 60 percent of maternal deaths may be preventable.”

Childbirth-related deaths in the United States are the highest among developed countries and in Washington state the pregnancy mortality rate is twelve per every one hundred thousand live births. The review panel would include ten members from related medical and health care fields, who would be appointed by the secretary of the state Department of Health.

Similar work in California, which is one of 20 states with similar panels, has lowered the state’s maternal mortality rate by two-thirds after identifying obstetric hemorrhage and pregnancy related hypertension as leading causes of death.

The bill now heads to the governor to be signed into law as the 2016 legislative session comes to a close ahead of March 10.