Committee passes bill to lower maternal death rate


DENVER, Colo. – When Adele Marshall’s daughter, Taryn Elkin, died two years from complications related to child-birth she wanted to immediately take action. Taryn’s death was not the only person lost to Marshall that day.

"Her baby, Cain Trujillo, my first grandchild, lived 90 minutes before he passed away from lack of oxygen," said Marshall,

Marshall says her daughter’s death was preventable. Elkin had acute pulmonary distress syndrome from a seizure Marshall says was caused by an undiagnosed case of preeclampsia—a condition only occurring in pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and hypertension. When Marshall reached out to law firms to try and pursue a malpractice lawsuit, says she was turned down.

"With proper diagnosis and care, or even emergency efforts to turn her on her side to prevent her from inhaling fluids when she seized, she could be sitting with me here today," said Marshall, fighting through tears as she testified to the House Committee on Public Health and Human Services Wednesday.

The Colorado State House of Representatives passed a bill out of that committee hearing that aims to lower the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the state.

"The morbidity and mortality rates among women delivering babies is growing in Colorado and that’s unacceptable," said State Rep. Janet Buckner, a Democrat from Arapahoe who is sponsoring the bill.

A 2017 report found the number of maternal deaths nearly doubled, from 24.3 per 100,000 births to 46.2 per 100,000 births following a similar trend of increasing mortality rates across the country.

"I had no idea what a massive problem this is, especially in the rural areas and then women of color are affected more than Caucasians," said Buckner.

The study reports rural and African-American women die more frequently than other mothers.

The bill would create a committee to investigate all maternal deaths, establish a cause of death, then immediately make recommendations on how to best prevent that death.

Currently, there is a three-year waiting period for those results and recommendations.

"So, by the time we get any information, everything could have changed. Right now, we know that postpartum depression is a big issue. Well, three years ago, who knew what was a big issue." said State Rep. Lios Landgraf, a Republican from El Paso County who also sponsored the legislation.

The 2017 study found that of the 145 maternal deaths, 80 percent were preventable like Marshall believes her daughters were. Landgraf and Buckner think more information more quickly can help change that. Marshall hopes that it does.

"If what you do in creating this committee can save even just one life, just one, it will be worth every effort you make," said Marshall to lawmakers.

The bill passed Wednesday unanimously, 11-0. It now heads to the house appropriations committee.

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