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Study: TX OBs wrongly blamed for high maternal mortality rate

The journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology released a study in 2016 that found the maternal mortality rate in Texas “mysteriously skyrocketed between 2010 and 2012.” The researchers stated that the number of pregnancy related deaths doubled in this two-year time span. The publication led to concerns about the healthcare system in Texas and the type of care provided by obstetricians in the state.

A new study provides some clarity and removes the blame from medical professionals in Texas.

Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force assembled to gather data

The state put together a task force to study the maternal mortality rate after the publication of this study. This group, the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, reviewed birth certificates, death certificates and medical records to gather more information.

After a thorough review, the task force came to a surprising conclusion: the previous study was wrong.

Two causes for error in previous study

The task force pointed out two main causes for error in the previous study:

  • Erroneous data. The task force noted the previous data included deaths that were not the result of pregnancy related complications. Researchers with the previous study included car accidents, homicides and other incidental deaths of new mothers in their review. This led to the false conclusion that the death rate was due to poor obstetric care.
  • Paperwork blunder. The federal government collects national data on maternal mortality. The government requires states include a checkbox within a death certificate for deaths when a woman was pregnant or postpartum. Like any checkbox on a form, medical professionals occasionally mark it in error. Due to the relatively small number of deaths in these circumstances, even a single addition in error can greatly skew the data.

When the task for accounted for these errors the data was not as shocking as originally thought. The new numbers dropped from approximately 38 deaths per 100,000 births to 14.

Implication of accusations of poor medical care

Allegations of poor medical care can lead to serious implications for the physician in question. This can include physician licensing issues and a potential investigation by the medical board. Those who are the subject of these allegations can take action to reduce the impact of the allegations. A physician licensing attorney can help defend your profession.