Monday, May 18, 2009

Motherhood as danger

Nicholas Kristoff, columnist for the New York Times, has an interesting piece (and accompanying video) on maternal mortality in Africa. Women in many places in Africa, die during childbirth at a depressingly high rate: 1 in 10 births in some areas. What Kristoff piece does well is give a succinct impression of the different, and often avoidable, causes of maternal mortality during childbirth: poverty and lack of education; gender inequality and the associated low priority for women's health issues; brain drain of medical personnel to richer countries; overworked health staff and abusive attitudes towards (especially female) patients; sub-standard medical facilities; transport barriers to reaching health care centers, particularly for pre-natal services. The avoidability of death in such cases -- sometimes a mother's life could be saved with a few dollars -- makes this an ethical issue, and not just a medical one.


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