IU Health says Black doctor who died after complaining of racist treatment didn’t get proper ‘empathy and compassion’

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Five months after a Black doctor died of COVID-19 after alleging she received racist medical care at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel, the hospital system said an outside panel concluded that the medical care she received did not contribute to her death.

But in a lengthy statement released Wednesday afternoon, IU Health acknowledged there was a “lack of empathy and compassion” shown in the delivery of her care.

The hospital system did not specify the empathy and compassion issues, or identify which caregivers were responsible for the treatment of Dr. Susan Moore, 52, who died Dec. 20 after she transferred to another hospital.

“We owe it to our patients to always show up for them, to treat them with dignity and respect, to appreciate their perspectives, and to validate their feelings when they are in our care,” Dennis Murphy, CEO of IU Health, said in a written statement.

He added: “We did not live up to these values with Dr. Moore and acknowledge that we have more to do to become a more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist health system.”

In an interview, Murphy said no staff members will be terminated, at the recommendation of the outside review panel. He said a small number of staff members will be put on administrative leave while they receive diversity training, then will be returned to their clinical roles.

The hospital system said it has already begun taking action after receiving recommendations from the external review panel.

Those steps include conduct training for all employees “to enhance compassion, encourage empathy and facilitate an optimal patient experience.”

IU Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said it also plans to hire more patient care advocates, improve patient care coordination, and increase support for team members who experience burnout and poor patient outcomes.

IU Health plans to require more comprehensive training for all employees, with a focus on “mitigation, unconscious bias, microaggressions and anti-racism to foster an inclusive culture. “

It said it will engage with community leaders and stakeholders “to publicly acknowledge the history of racism in healthcare and Indiana, and how IU Health will work toward reconciliation and change.”

The death of Moore, a family medicine physician who had practiced in Indiana since 2009, has garnered national interest after The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major outlets wrote stories about her treatment at the hospital, describing footage from a seven-minute video posted on social media by Moore.

Moore was admitted to IU Health North Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. In her Facebook post, she said she had to repeatedly ask for medication, scans and routine checks. She said caregivers there, including one white doctor, seemed to dismiss her pain and wanted to discharge her from the hospital late in the evening.

“I put forth and maintain, if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that,” Moore said in the Dec. 4 video, as she labored to breathe, with her voice often cracking. “This is how Black people get killed, when you send them home, and they don’t know how to fight for themselves.”

She was released from the hospital on Dec. 7, but was again hospitalized 12 hours later when her temperature spiked and her blood pressure dropped, according to her post. She was taken to a different hospital, Ascension St. Vincent in Carmel, and said she was experiencing better care. Still, her condition worsened, and she was put on a ventilator. She died Dec. 20.

The outside panel of six experts included four Black members who reviewed the circumstances surrounding the care of Dr. Moore.

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12 thoughts on “IU Health says Black doctor who died after complaining of racist treatment didn’t get proper ‘empathy and compassion’

  1. The question is: IU Health says that the care that Dr. Moore received did not contribute to her death. It is clear here that she did not receive the full measure of care and compassion that any patient has a right to. So, my question is: did the failure to provide that care contribute to her death?

    1. I think there may be a serious correlation between death and low moral, which a lack of “care and compassion” could cause. But it is basically impossible to scientifically quantify.

    2. Receiving full care versus compassion are arguably different measures. One is more objective and the other subjective. Obviously though patients deserve both. The report suggests they did not find a gap in her medical care.

    1. To pick up on what MG is saying, her comments made me wonder how she was treating her caregivers? I don’t know those details, but she says if she was white she would be treated differently and I have a feeling that it was more about her way of dealing with them rather than her race being the issue. The system is about not giving strong painkillers anymore and sending everyone home as soon as possible isn’t it? A tragic situation that she died as so many have and that’s the worst part of this story.

  2. Everyone’s experience in Hospitals varies. I have heard (and have witnessed) that Doctors are sometimes the worst patients. Being a cancer survivor and having extensive experience in hospitals and healthcare facilities, I cans say most healthcare workers are under a lot of stress and sometimes they aren’t perfect all the time. I have seen way too many situations in both the IU hospitals as well as Community and St. Francis where these workers do exemplary work with a great deal of compassion, without regard to a person’s race or ethnicity.

  3. Seems to me the hospital is in the no win situation. The panel said the medical care she received did not contribute to her death. Should be case closed. In the current world of diversity, inclusion and anti racism that accompanies every public announcement the hospital had to make these compassion comments because she is a minority. You can be sure that some in the majority have had this same lack of compassion at the hospital and nary a word has to be said.

  4. The problem doesn’t seem to have anything whatsoever to do with racism. At some point in time in the United States, the distinct, very broad line between healthcare providers and drug dealers became blurred. We have an opioid epidemic because people now believe it is more important to be pain-free than disease-free. You weigh 300 pounds and your feet hurt? Pop a pill. Diabetes from eating fast food your entire life? Pop a pill. Short of breath from smoking? Pop a pill. Physician burnout from patients demanding pain medicine? Pop a pill. Hospitals aren’t supposed to be luxury hotels. They are supposed to treat your illness so you can go hone as soon as possible, not pamper you like a Caribbean cruise ship.

  5. There is a bounty of data noting that complaints of pain and concerns of blacks are frequently not acknowledged. Blacks often must seek alternative opinions or simply insist that their concerns be taken seriously. The article indicates that Dr. Moore made the “if I were white . . . ” statement in the video she posted to Facebook, not to the doctors at the hospital. This and other comments here are speculative as we were not there and do not know. Perhaps the doctors assisting Dr. Moore were offended by her asking for specific care (and they knew they could not bluff her, but they could ignore her) — perhaps they found the requests demanding or cheeky, and they chose not to respond in an empathetic manner. Perhaps Dr. Moore could have been more fawning in style, but why should she as in her professional training and opinion she knew what should be done. Asking for treatment for pain during a time when many were dying of Covid was not an unreasonable action nor was this seeking pampering. This was tragic and, apparently, she did realize the severity of her illness as severa hours thereafter after being readmitted elsewhere, she died. Compassionate comments would be welcome; at the very least, considerate comments should be entered.

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