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Family of woman who died after C-section files civil rights lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai Hospital

Family files civil rights lawsuit against Cedars Sinai 03:38

The family of a Black woman who bled to death from a routine C-section, after giving birth to a baby boy at Cedars-Sinai, is claiming in a lawsuit that racism played a part in what happened. 

Video shows Kira Johnson kissing her oldest son goodbye before she headed into the operating room at Cedars-Sinai for a planned C-section on April 12, 2016. 

Kira died in the operating room, 12 hours after delivering her son Langston. 

"I trusted this place with the thing in my life that was most precious," her widower, Charles Johnson, said. 

Johnson stood with his attorneys and community advocates outside Cedars Wednesday after filing a civil rights lawsuit against the hospital. He said Kira would be alive today if she were white. 

"Because of the things we have learned through this incredibly painful process, 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," Johnson said. 

He added that doctors found three liters of blood in her abdomen after the C-section. 

According to the complaint, "The surgery was done recklessly. The time, start to finish, was a mere 17 minutes." 

Johnson said he pleaded with nurses for hours to get her a CT scan after noticing blood in her catheter, and remembers pleading for help with one nurse in particular. 

"She said, 'Sir, your wife just isn't a priority right now,'" he said.  

When Kira did finally get to the operating room, Johnson said it was too late. 

"When those doors to the operating room closed behind her, that was the last time I saw my wife alive," he said. 

The widower went on to say that his wife's story is one of many backing up the statistics that Black women are four to six times more likely to die from childbirth in California than white women. His attorneys released what they said was damning employee testimony on the hospital's practices. 

"When things go bad, we just ship them to ICU and if they die there, it doesn't count against us," Kimberly Gregory, a nurse at Cedars, said in her deposition. 

In her deposition video, Angelique Washington, a surgical technologist at Cedars-Sinai, admitted to saying an extra prayer when Black patients came into the hospital. 

"That has been my creed of my career, that all goes well, because you do have racism," she said. 

Nick Rowley, with Trial Lawyers for Justice, said the evidence against the hospital is clear. 

"...and has given us what we need to prove, based on their testimony, their literature, their evidence, that Kira died because she's Black," Rowley said. 

As for Johnson, he said will not stop fighting for the wife he lost.

"I will not be satisfied until every single mother in the United States receives the dignified, safe birthing experience that she deserves." 

Cedars-Sinai released a statement that read:

"Cedars-Sinai was founded on the principals of diversity, inclusion and quality healthcare for all. We reject any mischaracterization of our culture and values. While disparities exist throughout our society, we are actively working to eradicate unconscious bias in healthcare and advance equity in healthcare more broadly. We commend Mr. 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." 

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