Idaho is one of seven states without a maternal death review panel. This proposal would change that.

Updated Feb. 8, 8:10 am

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

A proposal by the Idaho Medical Association would establish a review panel to track maternal deaths in Idaho.

Idaho’s maternal death rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 births is higher than the United States rate of 26.4, said Susie Pouliot, CEO of the Idaho Medical Association. That US rate is also more than twice as high as most European countries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Idaho is one of seven states without a maternal mortality review panel, and, as of December, was one of just two states without a plan to implement one.

A 2008 legislative effort to establish one didn’t go anywhere, though Idaho does track maternal deaths.

Currently, Idaho death certificates have a checkbox to indicate the pregnancy status of women who have died between the ages of 10 to 54 years, said Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman of Idaho Health and Welfare, in a December e-mail to Idaho Reports.

The checkboxes are: Not pregnant within the past year; pregnant at the time of death; not pregnant, but pregnant within 42 days of death; and not pregnant, but pregnant 43 days to 1 year before death.

The death certificate doesn’t always indicate at what point during the pregnancy the woman’s death occurred.

According to IDHW, between 2008 and 2017, there were 121 deaths to Idaho women who were reported as either pregnant or pregnant within one year before death. Of those, 70 were determined to be pregnancy-related, 34 were from accidents, 7 were from suicide, 7 were from homicide, 1 was undetermined, and 2 were from all other causes. Of the 34 accidental deaths, 10 were from drug overdoses.

There were also racial disparities, with American Indian women experiencing the highest maternal death rates in that time period.


Source: Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

Though IDHW tracks maternal deaths, no entity exists to make recommendations to improve Idaho’s maternal death rate.

The proposed panel would be funded by a four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pouliot said, and would include physicians, a coroner, a labor and delivery nurse, and others. The panel would have the ability to look into deaths with records and make recommendations regarding medical care, but would not have disciplinary powers.

The House Health and Welfare voted to print the bill on Thursday.

Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, supported the panel during a Monday meeting. “(The death rates are) an embarrassment, and we need to find out why,” he said.


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