How systemic racism led to COVID-19’s rapid spread among people of color
Racist policies have led to COVID-19 being more dangerous and deadly for Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous Americans than for white Americans.
Patrick Shannahan, USA TODAY
INDIANAPOLIS – A Black doctor who died of COVID-19 after weeks of battling the virus said she was mistreated and delayed proper care at an Indiana hospital because of her race.
Dr. Susan Moore, 52, died Dec. 20 following multiple hospitalizations for complications from COVID-19, first at IU Health North and later at Ascencion-St. Vincent in Carmel, Indiana.
Her frustrations with the care provided at IU Health were chronicled on Facebook in multiple updates. The first came Dec. 4 when she said delays in her treatment and diagnosis were motivated by the color of her skin.
In a 7 ½-minute video posted to her Facebook page, Moore described frustrating back-and-forths with a white hospitalist with the IU Health system.
She described having her complaints of severe neck pain disregarded, despite drawing from her years of medical expertise to make a self-assessment.
“I was crushed,” a tearful Moore said of the doctor’s refusal to provide her pain medication. “He made me feel like I was a drug addict. And he knew I was a physician. I don’t take narcotics. I was hurting.”
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She said she had to plead with and convince her physician she was having trouble breathing before receiving a CT scan. When the scan revealed that what she was saying was true, she was given medication to manage her pain. But only after hours of waiting.
“I put forth and I maintain,” she said in the video, “if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that.”
‘Clearly everyone has to agree they (discharged) me way too soon’
From her hospital bed, Moore, who is remembered as someone who loved helping others, said she was speaking out so that the treatment she endured would not be overlooked.
“This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home and they don’t know how to fight for themselves,” she said into the camera. “I had to talk to somebody, maybe the media, somebody, to let people know how I’m being treated up in this place.”
After being sent home, Moore was back in a hospital bed within 12 hours, according to her Facebook updates. This time she was being treated at Ascencion-St. Vincent in Carmel, and was experiencing better care.
Shortly after being discharged from IU Health on Dec. 7, Moore said she experienced a spike in temperature and a drop in her blood pressure.
“Those people were trying to kill me. Clearly everyone has to agree they (discharged) me way too soon,” she wrote of IU Health before giving an assessment of her care at Ascencion-St. Vincent. “They are now treating me for a bacterial pneumonia as well as Covid pneumonia. I am getting very compassionate care. They are offering me pain medicine.”
Citing patient privacy, an IU Health spokesperson declined to speak specifically to the case, but shared a written statement on behalf of IU Health North:
“As an organization committed to equity and reducing racial disparities in healthcare, we take accusations of discrimination very seriously and investigate every allegation,” the statement reads. “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.”
IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network, is reaching out for comment from the doctor that tended to Moore.
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Despite the change in care, Moore’s condition continued to deteriorate. She died in the hospital three weeks after her Nov. 29 diagnosis.
Moore’s experience and tragic death sparked outrage and sadness across social media. Many pointed to it as the latest example of racism and discrimination in health care, as well as the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has has taken among Black patients.
It also led to an outpouring of support for the loved ones she leaves behind.
Moore is survived by her 19-year-old son and recent high school graduate, Henry Muhammed. In an interview with the New York Times, Henry said his mother was still thinking of others to the very end.
During their last conversation, Moore said she was going to help her son go to college.
Moore’s family told the New York Times that she was Born in Jamaica but grew up in Michigan. She studied engineering at Kettering University and earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School, according to her family.
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