Story at a glance
- A Black physician who died of COVID-19 had documented her treatment by white doctors and nurses at an Indiana hospital online.
- Black Americans are contracting and dying of coronavirus at disproportionately high rates during this pandemic.
- The United States has a history of medical racism against Black and indigenous Americans.
As a physician, Susan Moore knew what proper medical care looked like. So when a doctor at the Indiana University North Hospital, where she had been admitted with COVID-19, wanted to send her home, she was scared.
In a video posted to Facebook on Dec. 4, she accused Eric Bannec, who she later said had "a poor reputation dating as far back as three years," of refusing to give her Remdesivir or any additional narcotics to address her pain without performing a physical exam. Changing America has reached out to Bannec through the IU North Hospital for comment.
"Why do I have to prove that there’s something wrong with me in order for my pain to be treated. I have informed the patient advocate￼￼￼￼￼," she wrote on Facebook. In further updates, she chronicled her illness and care, including being released for less than 12 hours before being taken to another hospital, Saint Vincent Carmel.
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"Those people were trying to kill me. Clearly everyone has to agree they discharge me way too soon," she wrote in one of her final updates. About weeks later, the University of Michigan Medical School graduate died after a lengthy and public battle over her treatment.
"We are very sad to hear about the death of Dr. Susan Moore and our hearts go out to her friends and family," the hospital said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
The accusations hit close to home to many Black Americans who are intimately familiar with a history of medical racism in the United States that ranges from access to medical care and information to abusive medical testing.
Dr. Susan Moore died today from COVID, but HOW she died is unacceptable. She posted a video to Facebook from an Indiana hospital days before her death about mistreatment. "This is how black people get killed when you send them home and they don't know how to fight for themselves" https://t.co/iSF8rs7qmI pic.twitter.com/3a8qE6DhN3— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) December 22, 2020
The National Academy of Medicine established in 2005 that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.”
Just this year, a study found that half of more than 400 medical students and residents endorsed at least one of several common false beliefs about biological differences. And that racism can be both explicit and implicit, even finding its way into technological algorithms that determine care for Black patients.
At the same time, Black people are dying from COVID-19 at at 1.7 times the rate of white people, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Moore is now one of at least 52,078 Black lives lost to COVID-19.
Moore, who was born in Jamaica, was the sole provider for her parents, who have dementia, and her 19-year-old son Henry, who was forced to put his education at Indiana University on hold to care for her and his grandparents. Within two days of her death, a GoFundMe set up by Alicia Sanders, a physician and friend of the family, raised more than $100,000 for moving expenses, funeral arrangements and other bills. In an update, Alicia and another family representative, Rashad Elby, said the remainder would go towards moving the family to an uncle's home in Denver and allowing Henry to complete his education.
"For those of you not familiar with Henry and his struggles, he is a young man whose life to date is best summed as a story of obstacles, perseverance and triumph. Through Henry’s tenure at Carmel High School, he faced many unforeseen adversities that were out of his control. All Henry did was continue to trust his support system that the Carmel community provided for him and maintain high honors," wrote Elby. "Your contribution will go to a good place and help a great young man, who has experienced such disappointment, to reset his life and have a chance at a future."
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