Dr. Susan Moore is no stranger to the racial disparities heightened by the ongoing pandemic. According to the CDC, black people are nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their white counterparts due to a range of genetic and environmental factors.
After seeking treatment at a hospital in Indiana, Dr. Moore shared a video on Facebook alleging she was being denied care because of the color of her skin. Just a short while later, she died of COVID-19.
Racism in medicine didn’t begin with COVID-19 and it will likely remain after the pandemic goes away. Dr. Moore’s story is a reminder of how far the healthcare industry still has to go in terms of making sure all Americans can get the care they need.
A Desperate Plea for Help
Dr. Moore recounted her experiences battling the virus on Facebook up until she died. As she wrote online, it all started when she first tested positive for COVID-19 on November 29th.
While under the care of white staff members at Indiana University Health Hospital, she claimed she had to fight for the care she needed to survive.
She wrote that she had to “beg” for Remdesivir, which the FDA approved for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The drug has been shown to shorten recovery times for patients. She was told she didn’t meet the criteria for Remdesivir because she received two prior treatments.
According to Dr. Moore, she also had to ask the doctor to see the results of her CT scan. The doctor told her the x-ray came back normal, but she then found out it showed enlarged lymph nodes, excess fluid, and infiltration in her lungs.
Dr. Moore said she was also initially denied narcotics for neck pain. After asking repeatedly, she finally got the medication, which she said, “helped tremendously.”
Unlike many patients that face discrimination when seeking medical care, Dr. Moore had the knowledge and experience to know that something was wrong with the way she was being treated.
“Now, that is not how you treat patients, period,” she said in the video regarding the delay in receiving her pain medication. “So, I don’t trust this hospital, and I’m asking to be transferred.”
She continued to update her friends and loved ones from the hospital.
“This is how black people get killed,” she continued later in the video. “When you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”
She then wrote that she had spoken to the chief medical officer at the hospital and that her care had been adjusted. “He assures me that all my concerns will be addressed and that he will personally see that I get the best care possible,” she added.
She then posted that the facility was planning to conduct “diversity training” in response to her alleged mistreatment. The hospital sent her home, but she ended up at another facility less than 12 hours later. Her last post said she was being transferred to the ICU.
Dr. Susan Moore later died of COVID-19 complications on Sunday, December 20th at the age of 52.
The hospital denies any wrongdoing, publishing a statement in the New York Post:
“As an organization committed to equity and reducing racial disparities in healthcare, we take accusations of discrimination very seriously and investigate every allegation. Treatment options are often agreed upon and reviewed by medical experts from a variety of specialties, and we stand by the commitment and expertise of our caregivers and the quality of care delivered to our patients every day.”
Standing Up for Black Patients
Sadly, Dr. Moore’s experience in the hospital is not uncommon. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, black and Hispanic people receive worse care on 40% of the department’s care quality measures, particularly when it comes to treating pain.
Studies show African Americans are less likely to receive pain medication or opioids when they are suffering from less-obvious injuries such as migraine or back pain as opposed to a bone fracture.
The same is even true of black children. According to a national study that looked at almost a million emergency room visits, black children with severe pain from acute appendicitis were five times less likely to receive opioid painkillers compared with white children, even after adjusting for other factors.
Many black and brown healthcare professionals were quick to share and respond to Dr. Moore’s passing online. Dr. Omolara Uwemedimo of Melanin, Medicine & Motherhood in New York shared this message on social media:
“3 weeks after her diagnosis, she is no longer with us and one can’t help but wonder whether the outcome would’ve been different, if she did not undergo repeated delays in care that were undoubtedly due to her being a black woman, and the lack of respect & trust that we often face. These are the issues we face, as we give up so much to take care of patients, even in harm’s way, and when we find ourselves as patients, we are disrespected, devalued & dismissed. It cost Dr. Moore her life. Her medical degree did not save her from the racism that she endured while battling for her life.
I pray that we learn from this tragedy, that we have seen far too many times before COVID and to this day. We must do better for black women. Believe us. Trust us. Respect us.”
We are devastated for Dr. Moore’s loved ones and wish them well as they seek more information about her passing. No one should have to worry about being denied care because of the color of their skin.