Lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube hugging her nostrils, the black patient stared at her smartphone and, in a strained voice, complained about an experience that is too common among blacks in America.
Susan Moore, a patient, said a white doctor at a hospital in a Indianapolis suburb where she was being treated for Covid-19 had reduced her complaints of pain. He told her she felt uncomfortable giving her more narcotics, she said and suggested she be fired.
“I was trampled,” she said in a video posted on Facebook. “He felt I felt like a drug addict.”
In her post, which has since circulated widely on social media, she showed command of complicated medical terminology and complex knowledge of treatment protocols while describing in detail the ways in which she advocated for herself with medical staff. She knew what to look for because she was also a doctor of medicine.
But that was not enough for the treatment and respect she said she deserved. “I took it out and claimed to be white,” she said in the video, “I wouldn’t have to go through that.”
She was eventually sent home, and on Sunday, just over two weeks after the video was released, Moore, 52, died from complications from Covid-19, her son Henry Muhammed said.
Moore’s case sparked outrage and renewed calls to tackle the biased medical treatment of black patients. Extensive research suggests that black patients often receive treatment worse than whites, especially when it comes to pain relief.
“It had a huge impact,” Moore’s experience of Dr. Christina Council, a primary care physician in Maryland, who is black. “Sometimes when we think of medical bias, it seems so far away. We can sit there and say, ‘OK, it can happen to someone who might be poorer.’ But when you actually see this happening to a colleague, and you see her in a hospital bed and you’re literally advocating for your life, it just hits you another way and really hits home and says, ‘Wow, we have to do something. ‘”
A spokesman for the University of Indiana, a hospital system in which Moore complained of ill-treatment, said in a statement that he could not comment on certain cases due to privacy laws.
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“As an organization committed to equity and reducing racial disparities in health care, we take allegations of discrimination very seriously and investigate all allegations,” the statement said. He added that “we remain committed to both the expertise of our carers and the quality of care that is provided to our patients on a daily basis.”
The complicated combination of socioeconomic and health factors has made Covid-19 particularly devastating to black and Latin American communities. Blacks died 3.6 times more than whites and Latinos 2.5 times more than whites, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.
Moore had a positive test for coronavirus on November 29 and was admitted to the hospital, according to her Facebook post, which she wrote on December 4. She wrote that she had to beg the doctor treating her to give her remdesivir, an antiviral drug. doctors use Covid-19 to treat it.
Moore said she received a neck and lung examination after her doctor denied she was out of breath, despite telling him she was, and after telling her she could not justify giving more painkillers. The scan revealed problems – pulmonary infiltrates and new lymphadenopathy, she said – and so she began receiving more opioid painkillers. But she said she was in pain for hours before the nurse gave her a dose.
“That’s how blacks kill when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves,” Moore said.
Moore’s experience highlights what many black professionals say they have encountered regularly. Education cannot protect them from harassment, either in a hospital or in other settings.
Moore is a native of Jamaica and grew up in Michigan. According to her family, she studied engineering at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, and earned a medical degree from the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
The challenges of providing proper medical care were not unknown to her, said Muhammad, her 19-year-old son. She had sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that attacks the lungs, and was often treated in hospitals.
“Almost every time she went to the hospital she had to advocate for herself, fight for something in some way, shape or form, just to get a baseline, proper care,” he said.
In her fight against coronavirus at IU Health North Hospital in Carmel, Indiana, Moore wrote in a Facebook update that she eventually spoke with the hospital’s chief medical officer, who assured her she would get better care and that she would train on diversity. be hold. She got a new doctor and the pain was better resolved, she wrote.
But even though things seemed to be improving in the hospital, Moore still felt that the care was not great and that the medical staff had become less sensitive, according to Muhammad, who spoke to her on a daily basis. Although she didn’t actually feel good enough to be fired, she was eager to return home and take care of her parents, he said.
His mother always put others above her, Muhammad said. She worked for an organization that evaluated veterans to determine their level of disability.
When she fought Covid-19 at the hospital, she took the time to order him new slippers because his broke, he said. In her last conversation with her, she told him she would help him go to college.
“Even to the bitter end, she thought of other people,” Muhammad said.
The hospital released her on Dec. 7, he said, and she was slow and tired when she returned home. The hospital called several times to check on her, he said, and when she did not respond, she sent an ambulance. His mother could barely walk and was breathing hard when the ambulance arrived. She was taken to another hospital 12 hours after being discharged from the previous one, she said on Facebook.
“The temperature reached 103 and my blood pressure dropped sharply to 80/60 with a heart rate of 132,” she wrote.
Moore described the care at the new hospital as compassionate and said she was being treated for bacterial pneumonia in addition to Covid-19. Her condition, however, would deteriorate rapidly. The last time Muhammad spoke to her, just before she was put on the ventilator, she coughed so hard she could barely speak, he said.
Doctors intubated her on December 10, Muhammad said. Medical staff placed a Zoom call in her room and more than a dozen relatives spoke to her, hoping she could hear them even though she was unconscious, he said.
By last Friday, Moore had relied 100% on a breathing ventilator, her son said, and doctors told him he might not succeed. He visited her with his grandparents and told her that he loved her and did not care for him.
“If you want to fight, now is the time to fight,” he recalled telling her. “But if you need to go, I understand.”
Two days later, Moore’s heart stopped beating.