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Susan Moore

Source: Susan Moore / facebook

Following our reporting of the death of Dr. Susan Moore last week, the Indiana University Health system has now released a statement regarding her death through their President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis M. Murphy. Moore was a Black physician who documented her experiences and alleged mistreatment at IU Health after being diagnosed with COVID-19 back in late November. In the aftermath of her untimely death, which came after she left the hospital for another and a passing that spurred public outcry for more diverse and inclusive healthcare treatment for Black people, Murphy explained in his statement that Moore was “intimidating.”

The press release began with condolences to her family and friends. He then chose to point out that those caring for Moore may have been intimidated by her and her use of social media to express her dissatisfaction with hospital services.

“It hurt me personally to see a patient reach out via social media because they felt their care was inadequate and their personal needs were not being heard,” the statement read. “I also saw several human perspectives in the story she told – that of physicians who were trying to manage the care of a complex patient in the midst of a pandemic crisis where the medical evidence on specific treatments continues to be debated in medical journals and in the lay press. And the perspective of a nursing team trying to manage a set of critically ill patients in need of care who may have been intimidated by a knowledgeable patient who was using social media to voice her concerns and critique the care they were delivering. All of these perspectives comprise a complex picture. At the end of the day, I am left with the image of a distressed patient who was a member of our own profession—one we all hold dear and that exists to help serve and better the lives of others. These factors make this loss doubly distressing.”

For the record in regards to treatments, in her now viral Facebook video, Moore mentioned the fact that the hospital “wanted to send me home with new pulmonary infiltrates and all kinds of lymphadenopathy in my neck.” In updates that she left, she also shared that she had to “beg” for CAT scans and x-rays. When Murphy said in his statement that “the medical evidence on specific treatments continues to be debated in medical journals and in the lay press,” it feels like he was choosing to infer that Moore was the one who was making things difficult by asking for the specific medical care she felt, per her professional experience, she needed. Instead of owning up to the fact that Dr. Moore’s requests and insights were seemingly ignored by his staff, and that she was educated enough in the medical field to vocalize her mistreatment via social media, Murphy has tried to villainize her.

Because Moore has passed, she can no longer back up her story or defend herself. Even if she had survived, it would be so tacky and wrong for the medical world to make her feel she had to “prove her pain” and the mistreatment she said she experienced as a patient. That being said, we do have what’s she left behind, and working from that, others on social media have been backing up Moore’s claims of poor care at the hands of the physician who treated her before she switched hospitals for better treatment. One user on Twitter shared screenshots of reviews left for that doctor, reportedly a one Eric Bannec, M.D., about his treatment towards patients, with one going all the way back to 2015.

“Hello! I don’t think I could find a doctor that is more unprofessional and rude as Dr. Bannec is,” said the commenter in 2015. “He spent all of 20 seconds with me during my appointment today….”

Another in 2019 said, “He may know a lot about medicine, but he shows little understanding of or compassion for the human beings who become his unwitting patients.”

While people online have called for Dr. Bannec’s firing and asked why he hasn’t been disciplined, in his statement, Murphy said he is “confident” in the team that provided Dr. Moore care.

“I do not believe that we failed the technical aspects of the delivery of Dr. Moore’s care. I am concerned, however, that we may not have shown the level of compassion and respect we strive for in understanding what matters most to patients,” he said. “I am worried that our care team did not have the time due to the burden of this pandemic to hear and understand patient concerns and questions.”

“There is still much that we need to learn through internal review,” he added. “Additionally, I am asking for an external review of this case. We will have a diverse panel of healthcare and diversity experts conduct a thorough medical review of Dr. Moore’s concerns to address any potential treatment bias. The construct of this review is to understand how we improve on not only the technical aspects of care, but also the more humanistic elements of the patient experience. The external review also can illuminate ways that we as a system can ensure we live up to our commitment to the equitable treatment of all patients.”

How can he say he doesn’t “believe that we failed the technical aspects of the delivery of Dr. Moore’s care,” but then later say he wants to “address any medical bias” and understand how they can improve on both the “technical aspects of care” and the “humanistic elements of the patient experience”? If you need help to improve the technical aspects, then that would mean Dr. Moore didn’t receive the best care possible technically or in terms of sensitivity.

Where is the real accountability for this woman’s death? IU Health failed Dr. Moore from all standpoints, whether this occurred during the pandemic or not. Unfortunately, Moore’s death is one of many cases in the pandemic that has highlighted the ways in which Black people are disproportionately affected and not able to receive the highest levels of care. Her death shouldn’t have to be a “sentinel moment to accelerate our movement forward.” Black women should not have to bear the load of white guilt in their death when they could be heard and taken seriously while alive. It’s all just really sad.

Murphy’s letter goes on with more promises to the people and buzzword phrases, including their organization’s commitment to equity and “enhancing a culture of inclusion.” He ends the press release saying, “Dr. Moore’s words and image will stay with me every day and fuel my motivation to ensure that this organization becomes truly equitable in all dimensions. I hope it serves as a collective call to action.”

While the press release was exhausting, it’s unfortunately not surprising. The fact of the matter is, not only are Murphy’s words a reflection of the apathy felt by many in the healthcare field towards the feelings and proven experiences of mistreatment of Black women, but it also showcases the levels to which people will go to discredit a Black woman, their intelligence, and their livelihoods to cover their own behinds, even after that woman has passed away. As things stand now, Dr. Moore’s death shows that the Hippocratic Oath and the “do no harm” mentality all healthcare providers are supposed to regard as their standard doesn’t always apply in the case of Black female patients.

If you’d like to read the Murphy’s full statement, you can here. However, time would best be spent checking out the GoFund Me page for Dr. Moore’s son and parents, of whom she was the sole provider.

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