IU Health caregivers lacked 'empathy and compassion' for Black physician who died of COVID-19, review finds

Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health is working to address implicit racial bias among staff and improve cultural competency after an external review found a "lack of empathy and compassion" in the care of a Black physician being treated at the system for COVID-19 late last year, CEO Dennis Murphy said May 12.

Susan Moore, MD, was diagnosed with COVID-19 Nov. 29, 2020, and admitted to Carmel, Ind.-based IU Health North Hospital. Dr. Moore said the white physician who was treating her downplayed her pain complaints and said he felt uncomfortable giving her more drugs. 

"I was crushed. He made me feel like I was a drug addict," she said in a Dec. 4 Facebook video taken from her hospital bed. "I maintain if I was white, I wouldn't have to go through that."

Dr. Moore died of complications from the virus Dec. 20 at age 52. After her death, Mr. Murphy called for an external review of Dr. Moore's case.

A panel of six healthcare experts determined that medical management and technical care did not contribute to Dr. Moore's death. However, they found a lack of cultural competence among providers and said "several caregivers lacked empathy, compassion and awareness of implicit racial bias in the delivery and communication of Dr. Moore's care."

"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," Mr. Murphy wrote in a statement on IU Health's website. "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."

IU Health is developing a timeline and accountability structure for this work based on the panel's recommendations, which includes refining its patient advocacy system and conducting more staff training and education on diversity, equity and inclusion.

To view Mr. Murphy's full statement, click here.

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