BY ANNA MEDARIS MILLER | BUSINESS INSIDER
Jess’s patient was undergoing an emergency C-section when she went into cardiac arrest. The woman had a high-risk pregnancy and needed chest compressions to survive.
And yet, Jess’s supervisor, the attending physician, wasn’t concerned. He was a white male, and the patient, a Creole-speaking woman from Haiti, was Black. “You can’t kill a Creole,” Jess, an OB-GYN of Afro-Caribbean descent who was a resident at the time, told Insider she heard him say. Jess was appalled and “extremely uncomfortable.” Without looking away from her computer, she said, “Not cool, guys.” As she expected at the hospital with no people of color in leadership and only a few on staff, the small group of clinicians continued to chuckle.
It wasn’t the only time Jess, whose identity is known to Insider but who asked to use a pseudonym to speak openly about such incidents, said she heard comments like that at the hospital in Florida, where people from a wide range of races and ethnicities sought care.She said the Haitian patients were uniquely discriminated against, including when compared to other non-native English speakers and other people of color, perhaps because, as Jess said she perceived, white clinicians sometimes held openly biased beliefs about their bodies.
For instance, when Haitian pregnant patients developed pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening blood pressure condition, clinicians frequently seemed to tend to them with less urgency than their white patients with the same condition, Jess said.”I would hear comments such as, ‘She’s Creole, they do this all the time’ or, ‘She’s Haitian, she’ll be fine’ or, ‘this is what their babies do,’ without any further cause for concern,” said Jess, who no longer works at the hospital. Insider has corroborated Jess’s account with a former colleague, who recalled the same incident and similar comments.
In the US, maternal mortality rates are at least 2.5 times higher in Black women than white women. It’s not genetics or education or merely issues of access. It’s experiences like Jess’s that may help illustrate why.
“What I expected [when I entered the profession] was hypervigilance and person-centeredness, for us all to do our part to reduce the racial and ethnic disparity of maternal mortality,” she said. “Instead, I was met with the harsh reality of obstetric racism.”
Black women in the US are far more likely to develop pre-eclampsia and die than white women
In the US, Black women are at least two and a half more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth, or immediately postpartum than white women. Other statistics show pregnancy-related deaths for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women over 30 years old are four to five times as high as they are for white women.
Black women with at least a college degree are at even greater risk, dying from pregnancy-related complications at 5.2 times the rate of white women, data out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found.
Dr. Chaniece Wallace, a pediatric chief resident at Indiana University School of Medicine who died in childbirth after her daughter was born prematurely via C-section, was one of those tragedies. Continue Reading
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