Dr. Susan Moore died days before Christmas at 52, after a protracted battle to get racially equitable treatment at Indiana University Health North Hospital (IU), according to videos she posted on social media about her experience.
The head of that hospital system, Dennis Murphy, has since issued a statement in response to Dr. Moore’s video that seems to suggest that her last-bid attempt to get attention while laying in a hospital in intense pain, via videos posted on Facebook, was part of the reason why her story played out the way it did.
In a press release from Indiana University Health, Murphy claimed that the nursing staff who cared for Dr. Moore—who she said left her unattended for hours without the pain medication she had to fight to receive—were likely “intimidated” by Moore as a patient.
From the release:
I also saw several human perspectives in the story she told – that of physicians who were trying to manage the care of a complex patient in the midst of a pandemic crisis where the medical evidence on specific treatments continues to be debated in medical journals and in the lay press. And the perspective of a nursing team trying to manage a set of critically ill patients in need of care who may have been intimidated by a knowledgeable patient who was using social media to voice her concerns and critique the care they were delivering.
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“I do not believe that we failed the technical aspects of the delivery of Dr. Moore’s care,” Murphy added.
By labelling Dr. Moore as intimidating, even while she was in a hospital bed, in pain, and breathing through the help of oxygen tubes, the hospital’s head is leaning on a commonly-used trope to shame or otherwise blame Black women for behaving like human beings.
After being diagnosed with coronavirus on November 29, Dr. Moore began sharing videos on Facebook in which she described a doctor who dismissed her request for medication to assuage the intense pain she was feeling due to the virus.
“He made me feel like I was a drug addict, and he knew I was a physician,” said Dr. Moore. “I was hurting.”
After CT tests showed she had pulmonary infiltrates, leading the doctor to approve her for narcotic treatment, Dr. Moore said she was left in pain for hours without attention from nurses. When she finally asked the nursing staff about why she wasn’t getting any medicine, she said one of them “went in” on her (and even telling for some reason that he marched for Black Lives Matter).
Despite laying some of the blame for the lackluster treatment Dr. Moore complained of receiving at his hospital on her own desperate self-advocacy, Murphy also described her video as a “sentinel moment” that will propel the IU system’s efforts to ensure they are treating all patients equitably.
As a result, Indiana University Health will be launching an internal and external review into her case to “address any potential treatment bias” in order to provide for “material improvements for patients of color,” Murphy said. But the implicit bias that was present in that same statement, against the Black woman who was trying her hardest to get the care she deserved, makes it hard to believe in the likelihood of that process leading to meaningful change.