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Joint Commission Issues Alert About Preventing Maternal Death

Heather Comak, for HealthLeaders Media, January 27, 2010

The Joint Commission issued its latest sentinel event alert Tuesday about preventing maternal death. This alert is the first of 2010 and the 44th since The Joint Commission began issuing them in 1998.

The alert highlights maternal death in the U.S. as a serious, although rare problem to which hospitals and caregivers should be paying more attention. However, there seems to be few standard practices that these parties can take to prevent maternal death simply because the reasons that pregnant women may die are numerous and related to differing conditions of the patient. Maternal death is defined as death that occurs within 42 days of birth or termination of pregnancy.

"It is a profound tragedy whenever a mother dies in childbirth. Fortunately, these are rare events," said Mark R. Chassin, MD, MPP, MPH, president of The Joint Commission in a press release. "Achieving our national goal of reducing their frequency even further requires organizations and caregivers to have a thorough understanding of the underlying causes of maternal deaths and a disciplined focus on assuring consistent excellence in the early recognition and management of complications of delivery."

The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 13.3 mothers died per 100,000 live births in 2006. This number represents an increase when compared with rates of maternal death in earlier years. Although the increase may be due to more widespread reporting of maternal death, the issue is not one that is improving, according to the alert.

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