Pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented by medical review panel

With pregnancy-related deaths in the United States on the rise over the past 30 years, a proposal by Sen. Steve O’Ban creates a review commission tasked with identifying the leading causes of and ways to decrease preventable deaths. Legislation establishing the Maternal Mortality Review Committee today received a public hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee.

“Having experts with a broad range of experience reviewing deaths and identifying prevention methods will help save the lives of Washington women,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County, who serves as chairman of the Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee. “Right now we are missing out on key opportunities to improve 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 relevant medical and health care fields who would be appointed by the secretary of the state Department of Health.

“There is no existing committee to help determine pregnancy associated causes of maternal death in Washington State,” said Dr. Judy Kimelman, Washington State Chair of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “A Maternal Mortality Review panel will help identify leading causes of maternal mortality and suggest ways to decrease preventable maternal deaths.”

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.