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Panel Finds Doctor Who Accused Staff of Racism Before Her COVID-19-Related Death Did Not Die Due to Improper Treatment But Admits ‘Empathy and Compassion’ Were Missing

After a Black doctor died following a COVID-19 diagnosis, a diagnosis for which she believed she received racist medical care at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel, Indiana, the hospital system said an investigation by an outside panel found that treatment she received did not contribute to her death.

An external review panel of six outside experts concluded “the medical management and technical care Dr. Susan Moore received at IU Health did not contribute to her untimely death; however, there was a lack of empathy and compassion shown in the delivery of her care,” Dennis Murphy, CEO of IU Health, said in a written statement.

“Cultural competence was not practiced by all providers and several caregivers lacked empathy, compassion and awareness of implicit racial bias in the delivery and communication of Dr. Moore’s care,” he continued.

On Nov. 29, Moore tested positive for the coronavirus and was admitted to the hospital, reported the New York Times.  According to a Dec. 4 Facebook post, she wrote that she had to plead with the doctor caring for her to give her remdesivir, an antiviral drug sometimes used as a treatment for COVID-19.

Moore said that the white physician treating her had dismissed her protestations of pain, and she was told that he did not feel comfortable prescribing her medication and even implied that he would discharge her.

“I was crushed,” she said in a Facebook video. “He made me feel like I was a drug addict.”

As a medical doctor, she had advocated for herself with the medical staff in myriad ways as she described in her post. Her son, Henry Muhammed, told The New York Times she lived with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.

However, Moore maintained that it was not sufficient enough to get her the level of care she was warranted. “I put forth and I maintain if I was white,” she said in the post, “I wouldn’t have to go through that.”

On Dec. 7, she was released from the hospital, but returned 12 hours later after her temperature spiked and her blood pressure started to drop, the post stated. Moore was transferred to Ascension St. Vincent Hospital Carmel, where she said her quality of treatment had improved. Even so, her health deteriorated and she was placed on a ventilator. She died on Dec. 20.

“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,” Murphy, said in his statement.

“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,” he added.

He said in an interview that no staff members will be terminated, at the recommendation of the panel. Instead, some of the staff members will receive diversity training while on administrative leave, then will go back to their positions.

The hospital system said it is talking further steps at the recommendations of the external review panel. This includes conducting training for all employees “to enhance compassion, encourage empathy and facilitate an optimal patient experience.”

IU Health 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.” It also is arranging for more inclusive training for all employees, with a focus on “mitigation, unconscious bias, microaggressions and anti-racism to foster an inclusive culture.”

Another plan is to meet 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.”

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