'The Resident' Addresses Kira Dixon Johnson's Death In Episode on Racial Bias in Healthcare

the resident kira dixon johnson

If there was any doubt that The Resident was one of the best new dramas on TV, this week’s episode surely put those ideas to rest.

In an unusually political episode, The Resident addressed the role racial bias plays in maternal mortality rate, which is particularly high in black women. According to data obtained by Vox, Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die because of complications from childbirth.

In the episode, a young Black woman deals with severe abdominal pain, only to be ignored by her older, white doctor and a white nurse. Although Dr. Devon Pravesh emphatically tries to bring the doctor’s unconscious racial bias to his intention, the doctor insists that he treats all his patients equally.

the resident kira dixon johnson
Photo: The Resident

After hours go by, the mother dies from a nick to her bladder — a death that was completely preventable.

The episode is actually based on the true events of Kira Dixon Johnson, a black woman who died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2016 after delivering her son.

Since her death, her husband Charles Johnson has become a huge advocate for the issues surrounding maternal mortality.

For the episode, The Resident producers and writers worked closely with Johnson to make sure his wife’s story was told as accurately as possible. He told The Root that he spoke with The Resident‘s team for about four hours. He said,

“Much to their credit, we had a very candid conversation about the racial disparities and the role that I felt race played [in Kira’s death], and how I feel that biases are a contributing factor across the board to women of color.”

the resident kira johnson
Photo: The Resident

He added,

“I was so fortunate, this is not something where they just took our story and ran with it.”

Johnson was also given an advance screening of the episode to give a final sign-off.

At the end of the episode, Dr. Pravesh is successfully able to convince Dr. Bell to implement changes to their policies to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.

the resident racial bias
Photo: The Resident

Unfortunately, this is doesn’t happen in real life. Many hospitals lack policies and protocols to prevent unconscious bias, particularly in the maternity ward.

The Resident co-creator Amy Holden Jones said,

“There actually is a solution. Those systems and those protocols exist for most of the things that go on in medicine. For surgery, if you go into the ER with chest pains, there’s a whole series of things that kick in automatically, and because they exist, even unconscious bias will be defeated because you have to follow that system of protocols. There is no protocol for childbirth. And they would have saved Kira if [there had been].”


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Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.