Lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen tube hugging her nostr!ls, the Bl-ack patient gazed into her smartphone and, with a stra!ned voice, complained of an experience all too common among Bl-ack people in America.
Susan Moore, the patient, said the white doctor at the hospital in suburban Indianapolis where she was being treated for Covid-19 had downplayed her complaints of pa!n.
He told her that he felt uncomfortable giving her more narc-otics, she said, and suggested that she would be d!scharged.“I was cr-ushed,” she said in a video posted to Facebook.
“He made me feel like I was a dr*g add!ct.” In her post, which has since circulated widely on social media, she showed a command of complicated medical terminology and an intr!cate knowledge of treatment protocols as she detailed the ways in which she had advocated for herself with the medical staff. She knew what to ask for because she, too, was a medical doctor.
But that was not enough to get her treatment and the respect she said she deserved. “I put forth and I maintain if I was white,” she said in the video, “I wouldn’t have to go through that.” After Dr. Moore, 52, complained about her treatment, she received care that she said “adequately treated” her pa!n. She was eventually sent home, and on Sunday, just more than two weeks after posting the video, Dr. Moore d!ed of complications from Covid-19, said her son, Henry Muhammed.
Dr. Moore’s case has generated outr-age and renewed calls to grapple with biased medical treatment of Bla-ck patients. Voluminous research suggests that Bla-ck patients often receive treatment inferior to their white counterparts, particularly when it comes to relieving pa!n.
“It’s had a huge impact,” said Dr. Christina Council, a primary care physician in Maryland who is Bla-ck, of Dr.Moore’s experience. “Sometimes when we think about medical b!as it seems so far removed. We can sit there and say, ‘OK, it can happen to someone that may be poorer.’ But when you actually see it happen to a colleague and you’re seeing here in the hospital bed and literally pleading for her life, it just hits a different way and really hits home and says, ‘Wow, we need to do something.’”
A spokesman for Indiana University Health, the hospital system where Dr. Moore complained of poor treatment, said in a statement that he could not comment on specific cases because of privacy laws.“As an organization committed to equity and reducing raci!l d!sparities in health care, we take acc*sations of d!scrimination very seriously and investigate every all-egation,” the statement said. It added that “we stand by the commitment and expertise of our caregivers and the quality of care delivered to our patients every day.”
An intr!cate mix of socioeconomic and health factors have made Covid-19 particularly deva-stating for Bla-ck and Latino communities. Bl-ack people have d!ed at 3.6 times the rate of white people, and Latinos at 2.5 times the rate of white people, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.Dr. Moore tested positive for the Covid-19 on Nov. 29 and was admitted to the hospital, according to her Facebook post, which she wrote on Dec. 4.She wrote that she had to beg the physician treating her to give her remdesivir, an an-ti v!ral dr*g some doctors use to treat Covid-19.
Dr. Moore said she received a scan of her neck and lungs after her doctor denied she was short of breath, despite her telling him she was, and after he told her he could not justify giving her more narcotic pa!nki-llers. The scan detected problems — pulmonary infiltrates and new ly-mphadenopathy, she said — and so she began receiving more op!oid pa!n medication. But she said she was left in pa!n for hours before a nurse gave her the dose.“This is how Bla-ck people get k!lled when you send them home and they don’t know how to f!ght for themselves,” Dr. Moore said.
Dr. Moore’s experience highlighted what many Bla-ck professionals said they regularly enco-untered. Education cannot protect them from m!streatment, they say, whether in a hospital or other settings.Born in Jamaica, Dr. Moore grew up in Michigan. She studied engineering at Kettering University in Flint, Mich., according to her family, and earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School.“Nearly every time she went to the hospital she had to advocate for herself, f!ght for something in some way, shape or form, just to get a baseline, proper care,” he said.
In her struggle with the Covid-19 at I.U. Health North Hospital in Carmel, Ind., Dr. Moore wrote in an update on Facebook that she eventually spoke with the hospital system’s chief medical officer, who assured her that she would get better care and that diversity training would be held. She got a new doctor, and her pa!n was being managed better, she wrote.But even as things seemed to be improving at the hospital, Dr. Moore still felt that the care was lacking and that the medical staff became less responsive, according to Mr. Muhammed, who spoke to her daily. While she did not really feel like she was well enough to be d!scharged, she was ea-ger to get home to take care of her parents, he said.
When she was ba-ttling Covid-19 in the hospital, she took time to order him new slippers because he had br-oken, Mr. Muhammed said. In his last conversation with her, she told him she was going to help him go to college.“Even to the bitter end she was thinking of other people,” Mr. Muhammed said.The hospital released her on Dec. 7, he said, and she was slu-ggish and tired when she got home. The hospital called several times to check up on her, he said, and when she did not respond, it sent an ambulance. His mother could barely walk and was breathing heavily when the ambulance arrived. She was taken to a different hospital 12 hours after being d!scharged from the previous one, she said on Facebook.
“Spiked a temperature of 103 and my blood pressure plu-mmeted to 80/60 with a heart rate of 132,” she wrote.Dr. Moore described her care at the new hospital as compass!onate and said she was being treated for ba-cterial pne-umonia in addition to Covid-19 pne-umonia. Her condition would quickly deteriorate, however. The last time Mr.Muhammed spoke to her, just before she was put on a ventilator, she was co-ughing so badly she could ba-rely speak, he said.Doctors int-ubated her on Dec. 10, Mr. Muhammed said. The medical staff set up a Zoom call in her room, and more than a dozen relatives spoke to her, hoping she could hear them even though she appeared unconsc!ous, he said.
By last Friday, Dr. Moore had become 100 percent rel!ant on a ventilator to breathe, her son said, and doctors told him she might not make it. He visited her with his grandparents and told her that he loved her and to not worry about him. “If you want to f!ght, now is the time to f!ght,” he recalled telling her. “But if you need to go, I understand.”Two days later, Dr. Moore’s heart stopped be-ating.