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The Black Maternity Scandal: Dispatches, Channel 4

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

The Channel 4 Dispatches programme recently aired, raises challenging questions regarding published figures, relating to maternal mortality.

According to the programme, black women are:

  • over four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth,
  • and up to six weeks postpartum (after giving birth).

The published maternal mortality figures additionally show that:

  • mixed ethnicity women are three times as likely to suffer maternal death during pregnancy
  • Asian women are nearly twice as likely.

There is no definitive explanation for why these mortality rates vary so widely and have continued to widen over the decade, the NHS has no specific targets to reduce the disproportionate rates.

Amniotic fluid embolism known as AFE is one of the leading causes of maternal death. One study shows black women and other ethnic minorities to be nearly three times more likely to die from the condition.

Channel 4 reports:

Maternal death rates do not give a full picture however, because research shows that for every one woman of any race who dies around 100 will suffer a “severe maternal morbidity” – often referred to as a near miss. Although data is not collected in a central or uniformed way, one study from 2014 shows that compared with white European women, Black African women are 83% more likely and Black Caribbean women 80% more likely to suffer a near miss.

One woman to have suffered a traumatic near miss, Jade, is interviewed by Dispatches. She recounts how her drowsy symptoms following a c-section were likened to a hangover, and presented as a natural reaction to the morphine. It wasn’t until twelve hours later that she was given an antidote to reverse the effects.

Louise Tyler, Head of the Wilson Browne Clinical Negligence Team comments:

The programme raises questions that currently lack answers. We urgently need to understand the causes behind the disparity in mortality rates, as right now, there are questions that need answers so we can understand the root caues and find solutions.

Everyone deserves the best possible care and until we clearly identify what is behind these figures we’re no closer to ensuring we minimise what are possibly preventable mortalities.

You can read more at the Channel 4 website:

The programme is available online at:


Louise Tyler


Louise Tyler


Louise is the Head of the Medical Negligence Team working in this area of law for 25 years. She is a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel, the AvMA (Action for Victims of Medical Accidents) Panel and been appointed to the Executive Committee…