Charles Johnson has filed a civil rights lawsuit accusing Cedars Sinai of racism over the treatment of his wife, Kira Johnson, after a C-section delivery that led to her death in 2016.
In 2017, Johnson, the son of Judge Glenda Hatchett, filed a wrongful death lawsuit that is set to go to trial in a Los Angeles Superior Court later this month against the hospital and the doctor who treated his wife.
What Johnson says he was stunned to find in the discovery and deposition process was a disparity in care that Black women received at the hospital in what he has characterized as a culture of racism.
“The reality is that on April 12, 2016, when we walked into Cedars-Sinai hospital for what we expected to be the happiest day of our lives, the greatest risk factor that Kira Dixon Johnson faced was racism.”
The lawsuit contends that at one point Johnson was told by a nurse that his wife wasn’t a priority. Another doctor apologized to Johnson stating that her death shouldn’t have happened.
One medical professional testified to what she called “structural racism” that prevented Black patients from receiving the same care as whites.
With her husband by her side, Kira delivered a healthy baby boy at 2:33p.m on April 12, 2016. By 3:00p.m., Kira was taken to a post-anesthesia care unit and was bonding with their baby boy at 3:04p.m.
But jubilation turned to concern when a little more than an hour and a half later, Kira’s was experiencing symptoms often associated with uterine atony, the failure of the uterus to contract after delivery, which can lead to a deadly condition known as postpartum hemorrhage.
By 5:24p.m., Kira’s foley catheter—inserted into her bladder to drain urine—was instead draining bright red blood. Records indicate that a resident physician was called by a nurse about the increasing concern for excessive bleeding.
The bleeding would continue for hours as the situation became more and more dire and hospital support staff worked to get a handle on the situation. Yet, despite blood in the foley, no urine out- put, abnormal labs, symptoms suggesting acute blood loss, enlarging hematoma, it was not until about 11:30 p.m. and thereafter that a surgical discussion was held and consent provided for surgery.
At approximately 11:25p.m., her doctor was notified with a concern “for active internal bleeding.” While shortly thereafter, a massive transfusion protocol was initiated on Kira, another hour would pass before she was taken to surgery around 12:30 a.m.
Kira’s last words to her husband were, ‘I’m scared’. He held her hand and told her everything would be okay.
During surgery, Kira was found to have three liters of blood in her abdomen. Kira was pronounced dead at 2:22 a.m. on April 13, 2016, twelve hours after giving birth. The autopsy recorded the cause of death as “due to hemorrhagic shock, due to acute hemo-peritoneum (blood in the abdomen).
“We’re talking about a woman who was not only in good health, but exceptional health,” her husband told L.A. Focus in 2017. “She was a licensed pilot, a solo skydiver, ran marathons, raced cars…
“She was allowed for her condition to deteriorate and to bleed internally for more than ten hours at Cedars Sinai while my family and I begged them to do something. Essentially, she passed away due to their negligence. This is not a medical tragedy. This is a medical catastrophe. It should have never happened.”
Cedars Sinai has denied the claims stating that it was founded on principles of diversity and quality healthcare for all.
Since the loss of his wife, Johnson has testified before Congress and at the state capitol in Sacramento in his crusade to bring greater awareness to the disparities and is also seeking an injunction that would require the hospital to make changes to protect mothers and women of color.
Said Johnson, “There’s no doubt in my mind that my wife would be here today and be here Sunday celebrating Mother’s Day with her boys if she was a Caucasian woman.