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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center facing civil rights investigation for treatment of Black women giving birth

<i>Ringo Chiu/AP/FILE</i><br/>
Ringo Chiu/AP/FILE

Sabrina Clay, CNN

(CNN) — Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is facing a civil rights investigation into how Black women giving birth are treated in its hospital.

Maternal health is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and one in which the HHS Office for Civil Rights is working on around the country to ensure equity and equality in health care. To protect the integrity of this ongoing investigation we have no further comment,” the US Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement to CNN.

The federal investigation comes after Charles Johnson IV filed a civil rights lawsuit in May of 2022 against Cedars-Sinai following the 2016 death of his wife, Kira, who had gone to the hospital to give birth to their second son.

An autopsy showed Johnson died from massive internal bleeding following a planned cesarean section, CNN previously reported.

The lawsuit stated Johnson’s civil rights were violated, and she was denied health care because of her race, “which resulted in her untimely and wrongful death.”

Cedars-Sinai declined to comment specifically on the federal civil rights investigation, but in a statement to CNN said, “Cedars-Sinai clinicians, leaders and researchers have long been concerned with national disparities in Black maternal health, and we are proud of the work we’ve done (and continue to do) to address these issues in Los Angeles as well as at the state and national levels.”

Previously, Cedars-Sinai said it commended Johnson “for the attention he has brought to the important issue of racial disparities in maternal outcomes. While federal privacy laws prevent us from responding directly about any patient’s care, we have a longstanding commitment to making any changes to ensure we provide patients with the highest level of care.”

Black maternal death rates have been steadily rising in the United States for decades, CNN previously reported. Black mothers are nearly three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as White women with 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2021, according to the CDC. Multiple factors contribute to the racial disparities seen in the data, including underlying chronic conditions, structural racism and implicit bias, the CDC found.

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