(PRESS RELEASE) In a ceremony today, the Brazilian government gave monetary reparations to Maria Lourdes da Silva Pimentel, the mother of Alyne—an Afro-Brazilian woman who did not receive immediate medical attention for her pregnancy complications and later died. The reparations are part of the first United Nations ruling on human rights violations in her maternal death case.
Almost three years after the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) declared Brazil responsible for the death of Alyne and called on the state to provide access to quality maternal health care without discrimination, the Brazilian government provided her mother with reparations and will place a plaque telling Alyne’s story on April 3, at a maternity ward in Nova Iguaçu Hospital that was renamed in Alyne’s honor last year.
“All women have a right to the best maternal health care when they need it—regardless of where they live, their income, or their ethnic background,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Yet more than 4,000 Brazilian women die from pregnancy complications every year—most of which could be prevented if only timely medical care was accessible. Brazil must not only improve maternal health care for women like Alyne, but also commit to ending the deeply seated discrimination poor and Afro-descendent women face when seeking medical treatment in their country.”
Alyne, a 28-year-old Afro-Brazilian woman, was six-months pregnant with her second child when she was admitted to the private Health Centre Belford Roxo complaining of nausea in November 2002. Although she presented signs of a high-risk pregnancy, she was discharged without any medical treatment. Two days later, she returned to the private clinic in even worse condition. Doctors discovered that the fetus was no longer viable and removed it, but Alyne’s health continued deteriorating. It took more than eight hours to get an ambulance to take her to Hospital Geral de Nova Iguaçu—where Alyne then suffered more than 21 hours of additional delays before she was finally given medical treatment. She later slipped into a coma and died on November 16, 2002—five days after she initially sought medical attention.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Advocacia Cidadã Pelos Direitos Humanos submitted a petition on behalf of Alyne’s family before CEDAW in November 2007—the first maternal mortality case brought to the human rights body. In 2011, the committee declared Brazil responsible for violating Alyne’s human rights and ordered the state to provide individual reparations to her family and implement general measures to prevent maternal deaths.
“It is beyond shameful and inexcusable that doctors and hospital officials repeatedly denied Alyne the very medical attention that could have saved her life,” said Mónica Arango, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center. “Today the Brazilian government has taken an important step towards righting this terrible wrong by providing these long overdue reparations to Alyne’s mother. But it’s time for state officials to expedite the additional financial reparations for Alyne’s daughter, and finally prioritize meaningful public policies that will improve and guarantee maternal health care for all women.”
On February 28, 2014, the CEDAW Committee backed an agreement between the Brazilian government and the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing Alyne’s family, on the monetary compensation that was given to Maria Lourdes da Silva Pimentel. The individual reparations for Alyne’s daughter are still pending. The CEDAW Committee also underscored that the follow up dialogue would continue regarding the other recommendations, particularly the reparations for Alyne´s daughter and the general recommendations to improve quality maternal healthcare for all women in Brazil.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 800 women die every day worldwide from pregnancy complications. Brazil accounts for a quarter of all maternal deaths in Latin America and 90 percent of them could be prevented with prenatal care. Although Brazil has reduced its maternal mortality rate in the last decade, maternal mortality remains the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age, disproportionately affecting low-income, Afro-Brazilian, indigenous women, and those living in rural areas and the Brazilian North and Northeast.